Skip to main content

Florida calls off search for man swallowed by sinkhole

By John Zarrella and Dana Ford, CNN
March 3, 2013 -- Updated 0220 GMT (1020 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Demolition work is set to begin Sunday, could take a couple of days
  • NEW: Sinkhole now believed to be up to 60 feet deep
  • Jeff Bush is presumed dead after a sinkhole opened beneath his room
  • "We've done everything we believe that we can," says an official

Seffner, Florida (CNN) -- Authorities in Florida gave up the search Saturday for a man presumed dead after a sinkhole opened beneath the bedroom of his family's suburban Tampa home, swallowing him up.

The effort to recover the body of Jeff Bush had resumed earlier in the day after authorities stopped operations overnight, saying the hole was still expanding and the house could collapse at any time.

"We just have not been able to locate Mr. Bush and so for that reason the rescue effort is being discontinued," Mike Merrill, county administrator for Hillsborough County, told reporters Saturday evening. "At this point, it's really not possible to recover the body."

Merrill said the next phase in the effort would be demolition of the family's home, which is scheduled to begin Sunday and could take a couple of days. He stressed that workers were dealing with a "very unusual sinkhole" -- deep, wide and extremely unstable.

"We've done everything we believe that we can. We wish we could have done more," Merrill said. The sinkhole was between 50 and 60 feet deep, he said.

The terror for the Bush family began Thursday night, as everybody in the blue, one-story, 1970s-era home in Seffner was going to bed.

An increasing number of sinkholes have appeared in and around the neighborhood where the Lotte World Tower is being built in Seoul, South Korea. The first one was discovered in June and several others have appeared since then, according to local media reports, causing the construction of what would be Seoul's tallest building to come under scrutiny. An increasing number of sinkholes have appeared in and around the neighborhood where the Lotte World Tower is being built in Seoul, South Korea. The first one was discovered in June and several others have appeared since then, according to local media reports, causing the construction of what would be Seoul's tallest building to come under scrutiny.
When the ground gives way
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
>
>>
Photos: When the ground gives way Photos: When the ground gives way
Sinkhole victim's brother: I have nothing
Sinkhole swallows Florida man
What causes sinkholes?
First responder: Everything was sinking

There was a deafening noise.

"I ran toward my brother's bedroom because I heard my brother scream," Jeremy Bush, Jeff Bush's brother, told CNN's "AC360."

Sinkholes common, costly, sometimes deadly

"Everything was gone. My brother's bed, my brother's dresser, my brother's TV. My brother was gone."

Bush frantically tried to rescue his brother, by standing in the hole and digging at the rubble with a shovel until police arrived and pulled him out, saying the floor was still collapsing.

"I couldn't get him out. I tried so hard. I tried everything I could," he said through tears. "I could swear I heard him calling out."

The terror of those moments can be heard in a recording of the 911 call in the moments after the sinkhole opened up.

"The house just fell through," a female voice says on the recording released Friday by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

The woman asks for an ambulance and the police.

"The bedroom floor just collapsed, and my brother-in-law is in there. He's underneath the house," she says.

Jeremy Bush and four other people, including a 2-year-old child, were uninjured.

After officials called off the search for his brother Saturday, Jeremy Bush spoke to Bay News 9.

"It's very hard. It's not just I lost my brother. They're so many memories in this house," he told the CNN affiliate. "I don't know what we're going to do."

Nearby homes were evacuated Friday as a precaution.

The sinkhole compromised a house next door to the Bush home, fire department spokesman Ronnie Rivera said. That home wasn't damaged as of Saturday morning, but the family that lives there was given up to 30 minutes to remove some belongings before abandoning the premises, he said.

Merrill said residents on either side of the Bush home were allowed to go into their houses a short time to retrieve what they could.

Sinkholes are common in the state, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The state lies on bedrock made of limestone or other carbonate rock that can be eaten away by acidic groundwater, forming voids that collapse when the rock can no longer support the weight of what's above it.

Hillsborough County, on Florida's west coast, is part of an area known as "sinkhole alley" that accounts for two-thirds of the sinkhole-related insurance claims in the state, according to a Florida state Senate Insurance and Banking Committee report.

John Zarrella reported from Seffner, Florida and Dana Ford reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Chelsea J. Carter, Jake Carpenter, Brian Carberry, Elwyn Lopez, Nick Valencia and Tina Burnside contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Pakistan Taliban say the school attack was revenge for the killing of children in a military offensive -- but they are being pressed by defections to ISIS.
A group that claims it hacked Sony Pictures has posted a public threat against moviegoers who see Sony's "The Interview."
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
December 18, 2014 -- Updated 0948 GMT (1748 HKT)
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0212 GMT (1012 HKT)
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT)
A social media campaign condemning Islamophobia under the hashtag #illridewithyou has taken off after Sydney hostage siege.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
China-bound AirAsia flight turns back to Bangkok after passenger throws water over crew member.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
It takes Nepalese eye doctor, Sanduk Ruit about five minutes to change someone's life.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1054 GMT (1854 HKT)
This epic journey crosses 13,000 kilometers, eight countries over 21 days. Find out where.
December 19, 2014 -- Updated 1431 GMT (2231 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT