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Sinkhole opens beneath Tampa-area home, swallowing man

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By The Associated Press
Friday, March 1, 2013, 6:57 a.m.
 

SEFFNER, Fla. — A huge sinkhole opened up under a man's bedroom and swallowed him as he screamed for help. He was missing and feared dead Friday.

Officials lowered equipment into the sinkhole but didn't see any sign of life. Jeremy Bush, who was at the home near Tampa, said it took him only seconds to get to his brother's room about 11 p.m. Thursday. He jumped into the hole and dirt was quickly up to his neck.

“The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother,” he said. “But I just couldn't do nothing.”

Jeremy Bush had to be helped out of the sinkhole by a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy. Jeremy Bush stood in a neighbor's yard across the street from the house Friday and recounted the harrowing collapse.

“He was screaming my name. I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him,” he said of his brother.

Engineers worked to determine the size of the sinkhole. At the surface, officials estimated it was about 30 feet across. Below the surface, officials believed it was 100 feet across.

From the outside of the small, sky blue house, nothing appeared wrong. There wear no cracks and the only sign something was amiss was the yellow caution tape circling the house.

Jeremy Bush's wife and his 2-year-old daughter were also inside the house. “She keeps asking where her Uncle Jeff is,” he said. “I lost everything. I work so hard to support my wife and kid and I lost everything.”

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Douglas Duvall said he helped Jeremy Bush as the bedroom was still collapsing.

“I reached down and was able to actually able to get him by his hand and pull him out of the hole. The hole was collapsing. At that time, we left the house,” Duvall said.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said when Duvall arrived, there was nothing left of the bedroom.

“There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up,” she said.

“We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn't see anything compatible with life,” Damico said. “The entire house is on the sinkhole.”

Neighbors on both sides of the home have been evacuated.

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