Hillsborough county man swallowed by sinkhole under house - Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports - WNCT.com

Hillsborough county man swallowed by sinkhole under house

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Jeff Bush Jeff Bush
Aerial shots of the house, image courtesy Judd Chapin, Eagle 8 Aerial shots of the house, image courtesy Judd Chapin, Eagle 8
Engineers from Bracken engineering along with Task Force Three Search and Rescue are preparing to measure the sinkhole Engineers from Bracken engineering along with Task Force Three Search and Rescue are preparing to measure the sinkhole

A huge sinkhole about 30 feet across opened up under a man's bedroom and swallowed him, taking all of the furniture too. Engineers said it is a complex collapse and is continuing to sink.

Jeff Bush, 37, was feared dead after the floor gave way Thursday night. As he screamed for help, his brother Jeremy Bush jumped into the hole to try to help, but couldn't see him and had to be rescued himself. With the earth still crumbling, a sheriff's deputy reached out his hand and pulled Jeremy Bush, 36, 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 Friday as he stood in a neighbor's yard. "But I just couldn't do nothing."

The only thing sticking out of the hole was a small corner of a bed's box spring. Cables from a television led down into the hole, but the TV set, along with a dresser, was nowhere to be seen. Officials lowered equipment into the sinkhole but didn't see any sign of life.

"If there was any way possible that they would have rescued this individual, they would have," said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.

Jeremy Bush said it took him only seconds to get to his brother's room about 11 p.m. Thursday. He had just knocked on his brother's bedroom door, telling him they weren't working Friday. The brothers were employed by the Transportation Department and picked up trash along interstates and roads.

"I went in my bedroom, heard a loud crash, ran in that direction," he said. "I was getting ready to run into the room and I almost fell into the hole. I jumped into the hole and started digging [for him]. I started screaming for him."

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 wide. Engineers will resume their work near the house Saturday morning.

The state is especially prone to sinkholes because underneath the ground is limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, sometimes forming a hole in the earth. 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. There were six people at the home when it collapsed, including Jeremy Bush's wife and his 2-year-old daughter.

"It was something you would see in a movie. You wouldn't, in your wildest dreams, you wouldn't think anything like that could happen, especially here," he said. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Douglas Duvall rescued Jeremy Bush. "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.

Sheriff's office spokesman Larry McKinnon said authorities asked sinkhole and engineering experts to help with the recovery effort, and they were using equipment to see if the ground can support the weight of heavy machinery that was needed.

"We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn't see anything compatible with life," Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said. "The entire house is on the sinkhole."

Neighbors on both sides of the home have been evacuated.  Meanwhile, the Brandon Foundation's Angel Team is working to assist the family involved.

WARNING SIGNS: Sinkholes are common in Florida, especially in the Bay area. Experts advise keeping an eye on cracks in the walls, flooring and ceiling. If they get longer and wider over time, you may have a problem. Outside your home, you should look for slopes in the yard and circular spots where the grass and plants are dead.


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