Rescuers end efforts to recover body from Florida sinkhole

Sunday 03 March 2013 19.12
The house in which Jeff Bush was swallowed up by a sinkhole will be demolished
The house in which Jeff Bush was swallowed up by a sinkhole will be demolished

Florida rescue workers have ended their efforts to recover the body of a man who disappeared into a sinkhole that swallowed his bedroom while he slept.

A rescue spokeswoman said they will instead demolish the suburban Tampa home due to its dangerous conditions.

Two nearby houses have been evacuated because the sinkhole has weakened the ground under them, and their residents probably will never be allowed inside again, said Jessica Damico of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Jeff Bush, a 36-year-old landscaper, is presumed dead after vanishing into the sinkhole that opened suddenly beneath his room on Thursday night.

Five other people in the house were getting ready for bed when they heard a loud crash and Jeff screaming.

His brother was rescued after jumping into the hole and furiously digging in an effort to find him.

Authorities used listening devices and cameras at the scene of the nine-metre wide hole in the ground but detected no signs of life.

"There's nothing compatible with life in this situation," Damico said. "There's no way of possible survival."

She said demolition of the home would begin early today.

"Our data has come back, and there is absolutely no way we can do any kind of recovery without endangering lives of workers," she said.

Jeff Bush's brother, 35-year-old Jeremy Bush, feared earlier on Saturday that his brother was lost forever. A small memorial of balloons and flowers for Jeff Bush had formed near the home on Saturday morning.

"I thank the Lord for not taking my daughter and the rest of my family," said Jeremy, who worked with his brother in landscaping.

Jeremy himself was rescued from the sinkhole by the first responder to the emergency call, Douglas Duvall of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. When Mr Duvall entered Jeff Bush's bedroom, he saw a widening chasm but no sign of Jeff.

"The hole took the entire bedroom," said Duvall. "You could see the bedframe, the dresser, everything was sinking."

Norman Wicker, 48, the father of Jeremy's fiance who also lived in the house, said "it sounded like a car ran into the back of the house".

Damico said the hole would be stabilised after the house is demolished to ensure the safety of the surrounding area.

The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

As rainwater filters down into the ground, it dissolves the rock, causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.