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New video shows deadly Seffner sinkhole

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Aerial images of the house at 240 Faithway Dr. in February Aerial images of the house at 240 Faithway Dr. in February
Recent aerials of the site Recent aerials of the site
SEFFNER, FL -

Hillsborough County officials ordered houses next to the deadly sinkhole site in Seffner condemned and unfit to live.  The sinkhole opened up at 240 Faithway Dr. in Seffner in February and swallowed Jeff Bush and his bedroom, burying him alive. Rescue teams couldn't retrieve Bush's body. Demolition crews leveled the house and filled the sinkhole. 

County administrator Michael Merrill said in a memo that engineering consultants performed geophysical testing at the two properties adjacent to the house. They found additional sinkhole activity and unstable soils at the sites.

Chuck Halloway lives next door to one of the homes that will be condemned. His house is just feet away. He worries his own home may not be safe.

"We're all worried about this place around here," he said. "They tear this house down, what am I going to do? I don't know.

Halloway has been spending a lot of time looking over his fence into his neighbor's backyard. He swears the orange tree next door is lower than it used to be, and there's a gap under the concrete slab outside the backdoor.

"It looks like from here, where I can see in my backyard, like it just sunk," Halloway said.

Officials stated that repair expenses to the properties will be higher than the houses' values. Based on the Florida laws they deemed the houses condemned and unfit for living.

The county officials said in the memo, if the owners wanted to go back into the houses the engineers recommended additional tests to make sure the ground wasn't moving at the sites.

At the same time the county made the determination the homes at 238 and 242 Faithway Dr. need to be condemned, it also released video of the inside of the sinkhole. The video shows a view from inside the bedroom where Jeff Bush slept. The walls and floor are still visible, but the floor disappears into a large dark hole.

Even though she heard the ground fall out from the man who was sleeping in the next room; although she saw the pit for herself that night - it's still hard for Janell Wheeler to watch newly released video of the now infamous Seffner sinkhole.

"I've been a basket case the whole day ever since I've seen it," Wheeler said. "It's just like you ripped off that Band-Aid."

Hillsborough County released the video Tuesday which shows how deep the sinkhole was that swallowed Jeff Bush as he slept on Feb. 28. Rescuers used the camera to see inside the home on Faithway Drive in Seffner. What started as a hole 5 to 10 feet deep turned into a pit likely 60 feet below the floor.

"It wasn't that big when we saw it," Wheeler remembers about that night.

She ran to the bedroom as Jeff's brother jumped into the hole to save him. He couldn't. A Hillsborough Co. deputy pulled him to safety but rescuers determined it was too risky to recover Jeff's body.

"My bedroom is the bedroom that was next door," Wheeler said. "When it initially fell - it took my closet and about a foot and a half to two feet into my bedroom ... the floor ... when it collapsed."

Since the sinkhole opened up, Janell's insurance has put the family up in a rental. They have two months to find something else.

"Obviously - no one's ever going to build here again," she said as she stood in front of the empty lot now surrounded by fencing and memorials.

The nights are tough. She can barely sleep. And she says she comes every day to sit in her car, reflect and remember the memories and life lost here. But the notes on the fence also tell her many people are doing the same.

"I just could not imagine this little town of Seffner - our little family - that everybody has just come together," she said.

 

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