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Most of Fla. sinkhole house demolished

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By The Associated Press
Sunday, March 3, 2013, 9:27 p.m.

SEFFNER, Fla. — Crews on Sunday razed more than half of the Tampa-area home perched over a huge sinkhole that swallowed a man three days ago, managing to salvage some keepsakes for family members who lived there.

Jeremy Bush, 35, tried to save his brother Jeff when the earth opened and swallowed him on Thursday night. On Sunday morning, Bush and relatives prayed with a pastor as the home — where he lived with his girlfriend, Rachel Wicker; their daughter, Hannah, 2; and others — was demolished and waited for firefighters to salvage anything possible from inside.

Early Sunday, just before the demolition, Bush and an unidentified woman knelt and prayed at the mailbox in front of the home, owned by Leland Wicker, Rachel's grandfather, since the 1970s.

After praying, Bush and the woman walked across the street to a neighbor's lawn to watch.

The operator of the heavy equipment worked gingerly, first taking off a front wall. Family belongings were scooped onto the lawn gently in hopes of salvaging parts of the family's 40-year history in the home.

As of Sunday afternoon — when demolition had stopped for the day and only a few walls of the home remained — a Bible, family photos, a jewelry box and a pink teddy bear for Hannah were among the items saved. Firefighters also recovered the purse of one of the women in the home.

Cheers went up from family, friends and neighbors each time something valuable was salvaged.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said the remaining walls of the home would be knocked down on Monday and then crews would turn to clearing the debris as much as possible to allow officials and engineers to examine the sinkhole.

Officials also will determine what will happen to the two homes on either side of the demolished house.

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