Seffner, Florida. March 1st, 2013.

We have found some pictures from Tuesday that are better, the subfloor/foundation pad of the house obscures much of the sinkhole itself..

seffner sinkhole revealed-1

Monday Finally revealed..

seffner reveal sinkhole tuesday

A demolition crew finally revealed the large sinkhole that swallowed a man from Florida in his bedroom last week after they finished knocking down the house the stood over it.

The home over the sinkhole had been as-gingerly-as-possible picked apart by a long-armed backhoe in an effort to preserve as many keepsakes as possible for the family that until last week lived in it.

Crews on Sunday razed more than half the home, managing to salvage some keepsakes for family members who lived there, and continued their work early Monday morning. It wasn’t until late Monday that the hole was revealed, reports CBS affiliate WTSP in Tampa.

A cousin of the family who lived there described watching them tear the home down as “terrifying,” reports WTSP.

“I just don’t even know what to think sometimes. All those memories, childhood, down the drain,” said Jordan Wheeler, adding that he was “heartbroken” by the situation.

Now that emergency officials and engineers can see inside the sinkhole more clearly, they could begin planning how to deal with it. They also need to decide what will happen to the two homes on either side of the affected house. Experts say the sinkhole has “compromised” those homes, but it’s unclear whether steps can be taken to save them.

Though thousands of sinkholes erupt in Florida each year, most are small, few affect homes, and even fewer cause deaths. The sinkhole in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, however, was different.

Mark Stewart, a geologist at the University of South Florida, told CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez sinkholes are rarely so catastrophic. Unfortunately, there’s no way to predict them either.

“If a cavity is large and sediments have simply, at this point in time, have clogged it, in 10 years, 100 years it could open up again,” Stewart said.

Bojorquez reports that as crews began to fill the hole with gravel, yet another sinkhold appeared a few miles away between two other homes. No one was injured there.

Crews still were working to remove enough of the home to see more clearly inside the hole and determine what steps would come after the property is razed. There has been no definitive word as to whether the hole will be filled or whether the property could be built on again. But some experts say the fact that the sinkhole claimed a life, and that his body is expected to remain below the surface make rebuilding less likely.

“It’s kind of a bad omen,” said Dave Arnold, a hydrogeologist who has surveyed sinkholes for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “This is an even worse omen with someone buried under there.”

Arnold and other experts expect that once the house if destroyed, crews will work to fill in the hole and the lot will likely remain empty. Depending on the circumstances, past Florida sinkholes have been handled in varied ways.

In Maitland, Fla., a sinkhole 325 feet across was discovered in the 1960s as Interstate 4 was built. The highway was diverted around the area, but in 2008 workers began a $9 million project to fill and stabilize the sinkhole in preparation for a planned expansion of the roadway. Engineers say a road can be put over it now without any problems.

In Winter Park, Fla., a sinkhole in 1981 swallowed several sports cars, parts of two businesses, the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool and a three-bedroom house. It stretched about 350 feet across and caused $2 million in damages. The area became a temporary tourist attraction, but most of it was ultimately deserted, filled with water and became a lake.

And in 2002, a sinkhole about 150 feet across and 60 feet deep swallowed oak trees, sidewalk and park benches near an apartment complex in western Orange County, Fla. Two buildings with more than 100 residents were evacuated, but the structures were ultimately saved. Metal sheet piling was placed around the hole to stop the soil from sliding, and it was filled.

Often, homeowners find clues to a pending problem by cracks in the foundation or a shifting floor. When that happens, and a sinkhole threat has been established, crews can pump a thick grout — a mixture of sand and cement — into the ground to fill the holes. It is a costly process, though it is typically paid by insurance companies, and can save a home from being destroyed.

“You inject the grout under pressure and attempt to fill all the cavities you can find,” said Anthony Randazzo, a former University of Florida geology professor who started the consulting firm Geohazards, which handles about 1,000 cases a year of sinkholes and other settlement issues.

Though the specifics of what will happen to the Seffner property remain unknown, Randazzo said the hole would have to be filled to keep people from falling in it and to remove a potential neighborhood eyesore.

If the family decides to try to sell the property, they would be required to notify prospective buyers of the sinkhole issue.

Currently, various county agencies are at the sinkhole site to supervise, but officials haven’t given a tally of the costs or said who is absorbing them.

For now, the focus in Seffner remains on a family mourning a loved one and trying to move on. Two large backhoes scraped and pulled at the house Monday afternoon, with one gently removing possessions including a flag, a jacket, family photographs, a bicycle and a china cabinet. The other machine loaded shattered pieces of furniture and construction material into a huge waste container.

The day’s most solemn moment came at 4 p.m., when demolition stopped and workers joined family members for a brief ceremony. The many flowers and notes that had been left in front of the house were loaded into a tractor’s bucket, which swung slowly toward the sinkhole and dropped the materials into the hole. There was applause from across the street.

Crews hoped to finish the demolition by Monday evening. On Tuesday, they planned to survey the hole to better understand its dimensions. Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz said workers would then “stabilize the hole,” though he remained mum on details of what precisely would be done.

“Every sinkhole is different,” he said.

The grim work continues at a home near Tampa, Fla., where a man apparently died last week when a sinkhole opened up under his bedroom.

As a giant red backhoe plunged into the Florida home where a massive sinkhole swallowed a man whole, pieces of the family’s lives were pushed into public view.

Walls with picture frames on them came crashing down. Baby toys and clothes on hangers were raked across the ground.

A woman wept as an official handed her a framed portrait. Others lovingly salvaged military awards, a pink teddy bear and an American flag that hung near the house’s front door. The family Bible bore claw marks from the backhoe’s bucket.

Workers started demolishing the blue, one-story home as carefully as they could Sunday to try to salvage belongings for the family of the victim, Jeff Bush.

Demolition efforts are resuming. At some point today, according to news reports, crews should be able to remove walls, roofing and other materials from atop the room where 37-year-old Jeffrey Bush had been sleeping — exposing the sinkhole and giving authorities a better view of what’s said to be a 60-foot-deep chasm.

As Korva reported over the weekend, authorities had to give up efforts to find Bush because the hole was just too dangerous to work in. They’re working from a distance — using cranes and other equipment.

Tampa’s WFLA-TV reports this morning on the three generations of one family that had lived in the home. The Tampa Bay Times writes about how workers, using a long boom with a bucket, tried over the weekend to carefully scoop some of the family’s possessions from the home. The family:

“Watched the long boom extend and the bucket approach, tentatively at first, to scoop up an American flag that had been flying outside the home. Firefighters in the street folded it into a triangle and handed it to them.

“The machine pressed on.

“Blocks tumbled. Wood splintered. Walls fell, revealing beds, televisions, dressers and framed photos.

“The backhoe operator combed for treasured objects. The family cried and applauded when he unearthed the Bible of their late matriarch, Mary Leona Wicker, who, between its aged pages, had tucked baptism certificates.

“Afterward, the family hugged the operator and thanked him.”

Tampa Bay Online adds that:

“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.

“Wanda Carter, aunt of Rachel Wicker and daughter of Leland Wicker, who has owned the home since the 1970s, cradled the large family Bible in her arms. She said her mother and father had stored baptism certificates, cards and photos between the pages of that Bible over the years.

” ‘It means that God is still in control, and He knew we needed this for closure,’ she said, crying.”

split-seffner sinkhole 2This just in from our Burbank correspondent:

Well this sucks, imagine you’re sleeping soundly and all of a sudden the ground opens up under your bed and swallows you up and probably kills you. YES! The ground just swallowed him up.

A Florida man fell into a sinkhole that opened suddenly Thursday night beneath the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home, calling out to his brother for help as he fell, the brother said Friday.

“I heard a loud crash, like a car coming through the house,” Jeremy Bush told CNN affiliate WFTS. “I heard my brother screaming and I ran back there and tried going inside his room, but my old lady turned the light on and all I seen was this big hole, a real big hole, and all I saw was his mattress.”

Bush frantically tried to rescue his brother, Jeff Bush, 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 thought I heard him holler for me to help him,” the man tearfully told WFTS.

Jeremy Bush and four other people, including a 2-year-old child, escaped from the blue, one-story 1970s-era home in Seffner, Florida, a Tampa suburb.

Jeff Bush was presumed dead after monitoring equipment lowered by engineers detected no signs of life, said Jessica Damico, the Hillsborough County Fire Department spokeswoman.

But rescuers can’t go into the hole to check — it’s too dangerous, Fire Chief Ron Rogers told reporters Friday. Authorities say they worry the hole is still spreading and the house could collapse at any time.

The sinkhole is about 20 feet to 30 feet across and may be 30 feet deep, said Bill Bracken, president of the engineering company assisting emergency workers. The hole was originally reported to be 100 feet across, but that is the diameter of the safety zone surrounding it, Bracken said.

“It started in the bedroom, and it has been expanding outward and it’s taking the house with it as it opens up,” he said.

Nearby homes have been evacuated as a precaution, Rogers said.

Damico said about 40 police and firefighters were standing by at the scene Friday morning. Meanwhile, engineers with more sophisticated equipment hope to get a three-dimensional image of the sinkhole.

Family members were also on hand, waiting out what they fear will be a devastating day.

“I know in my heart he’s dead,” Jeremy Bush said. “But I just want to be here for him, because I love him. He was my brother, man.”

Sinkholes are common in Florida, 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 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.

sinkhole_brandon pic

Fire Rescue workers in Brandon, Florida are trying to find a man that was swallowed by a sinkhole that opened up under his bedroom last night.

36-year-old Jeff Bush, a roadside maintenance worker for the Florida Department of Transportation, was in his bed when authorities say the ground started to give way. Jessica Damico, a spokeswoman for the Hillsboro County Fire Rescue, said Bush’s brother tried to rescue him, and was almost pulled in himself.

Three other adults and a child were in the home at the time, but they escaped unharmed. His sister says she could hear Bush screaming, trapped under the rubble.

The sinkhole is nearly 100 feet wide, and 50 feet deep. Damico said the it’s still growing, and the house could collapse at any time. She also said that deputies have put in sound and motion monitoring equipment to try to find out if Bush is still alive, but they don’t have any results yet.

An engineering team is on the way to the scene to evaluate and see if they can reach the man.

Deputies have evacuated several homes in the area in case the sinkhole opens up further.

Saturday March 2nd update from the Associated Press:

Engineers worked gingerly on Saturday to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that had swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing that the entire house could succumb to the unstable ground.

Police tape kept onlookers safely across the street on Friday.

Jeremy Bush/Jeremy Bush, via Associated Press

Jeff Bush

Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom on Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but escaped unharmed. Mr. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued by a sheriff’s deputy.

Engineers returned to the property on Saturday morning to do more tests after taking soil samples and running tests there all day Friday. They said the entire lot was dangerous, and no one was allowed in the house.

“I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet,” said Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company that was called to assess the sinkhole. He described the earth below as a “very large, very fluid mass.”

“This is not your typical sinkhole,” said Michael Merrill, the Hillsborough County administrator. “This is a chasm. For that reason, we’re being very deliberate.”

The hole had grown to 20 feet deep and 30 feet wide by Friday night, and officials said it was still expanding and “seriously unstable.”

Officials delicately addressed another sad reality: Mr. Bush was most likely dead, and the family wanted his body.

“They would like us to go in quickly and locate Mr. Bush,” Mr. Merrill said.

Two neighboring houses were evacuated, and officials were considering further evacuations. Members of the news media were moved from a lawn across the street to a safer area a few hundred feet away.

“This is a very complex situation,” said the Hillsborough County fire chief, Ron Rogers. “It’s continuing to evolve, and the ground is continuing to collapse.”

Sinkholes are so common in Florida that the state requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it is extremely rare for a sinkhole to swallow a person.

Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because of the underground prevalence of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, creating caverns.

“You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese,” Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, said while gesturing to the ground and to the sky-blue house where the earth opened. “Any house in Florida could be in that same situation.”

A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and swallowed five cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state’s environmental agency.

The sinkhole here caused the home’s concrete floor to cave in around 11 p.m. Thursday as everyone in the house was turning in for the night. It gave way with a loud crash that sounded like a car hitting the house and brought Mr. Bush’s brother, Jeremy, running.

Jeremy Bush said he had jumped into the hole but could not see his brother before the ground crumbled around him. A sheriff’s deputy reached out and pulled him to safety.

“The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn’t care — I wanted to save my brother,” Jeremy Bush said through tears on Friday in a neighbor’s yard. “But I just couldn’t do nothing.”

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2 Responses to Seffner, Florida. March 1st, 2013.

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