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Sinkhole reopens two years after it swallowed Seffner man sleeping in his bed

Jeremy Bush, 38, and his wife, Rachel Wicker, 30, from Seffner talk on their phones near the sinkhole on Wednesday. In March 2013, the sinkhole opened and swallowed Jeffrey Bush, Jeremy's brother. [SCOTTY SCHENCK | Times]
Published Aug. 20, 2015

SEFFNER

Jeremy Bush knew the cavernous, deadly hole on Faithway Drive would crack back open eventually.

It swallowed his brother alive two years ago and prompted Hillsborough County to level the Bush home plus two others, just in case.

Bush, 38, has visited the site each day since, watched county workers to fill in the hole, pile it high with white rock and close it off with a fence.

His brother's body was never recovered. Family members treat the site as Jeffrey Bush's grave.

On Wednesday morning, that grave opened wide once again.

"It's hard to believe," Jeremy Bush said. "It brings back memories. I think about it every day. There ain't a day that goes by that I don't think about it."

Around 9 a.m., a woman walking her dog near the site of the infamous sinkhole called 911 after she heard a loud noise. Hillsborough sheriff's deputies responded and found the newly gaping hole, 17 feet wide and 20 feet deep, county code enforcement director Ron Spiller said.

"It wasn't expected, but it's not uncommon," Spiller said.

Sinkholes form when acidic water, such as rain, dissolves the rock bed below the earth's surface. Voids are created — and have been for eons — and when the ground above collapses into them, a sinkhole forms.

The onslaught of downpours in the last month was a major contributor to the Faithway Drive hole reopening, Spiller said. Heavy rain after a drought makes ideal conditions for sinkhole activity.

The site is just under an acre and double-fenced. The same engineering firm that repaired the hole the first time said there was no threat to surrounding homes or residents.

"They're safe," Spiller said. "What happened today is exactly what was designed to happen."

Engineers assessed the hole Wednesday afternoon and will have a plan of action to the county soon, Spiller said. Officials hope to begin repairs soon.

Neighbor Ricky Arey, 52, lives across the street. He remembers how devastated the community was after Jeffrey Bush's death.

"It's still a thing," he said. "There is still traffic that stops, that comes by."

He sees Jeremy Bush return every day.

For months after the first hole opened, Arey said his wife could not sleep. On Wednesday, her fear only increased.

"We're a little concerned being 100 feet away," Arey said. "It's like swiss cheese."

Other neighbors said they were also concerned, but wouldn't let "what-ifs" paralyze them. This is Florida, they said. Sinkholes happen.

"We kind of thought it was behind us," Arey added, "because the gravel there hadn't settled."

But Jeremy Bush and his wife, Rachel Wicker, said that on their most recent trips to the site it appeared the white rocks piled on top had shifted.

The couple were inside the blue house at 240 Faithway Drive on Feb. 28, 2013, when the floor opened up beneath Jeffrey Bush's bed.

"Help me! Help me!" Jeremy Bush heard his brother yelling. He threw open the bedroom door, flipped on the lights and saw only the tip of Jeffrey's mattress sinking into the earth.

Jeremy dug furiously at the churning hole before rescue workers pulled him away.

Days later, after another collapse buried a piece of equipment, authorities deemed the property too unsafe to continue work. The house was demolished, the hole filled with gravel. Two neighboring houses were later demolished.

Jeremy Bush and his wife lived in a hotel for six months, then moved to temporary housing. One day, several houses down, another sinkhole appeared.

"We felt like it was following us," Wicker said.

With the donations and financial aid they received after the tragedy, Wicker and Bush bought a new home in the same neighborhood where the little blue house once stood.

They walk by daily to pay their respects. A plaque honoring Jeffrey Bush sits outside the fence. His name is engraved on a headstone kept at his brother's home. A cemetery plot wasn't necessary.

Even after two years, that's still the hardest part.

"I didn't get to say bye," Jeremy Bush said.

Information from WTSP 10News was used in this report. Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler.

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