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 up and swallowed him Thursday night.
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. 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 Monday and then crews would turn to clearing the debris as much as possible to allow officials and engineers to see the sinkhole in the open. Officials also will determine what will happen to the two homes on either side of the now-demolished house; experts say the sinkhole has “compromised” those homes, but it’s unclear whether steps can be taken to save them.
Several generations of family members lived in the home at the time of the ground collapse, including Jeff Bush, the man now presumed dead.
Jeremy Bush tried to save his brother by jumping into the sinking dirt hole. He had to be pulled out of the still-shifting hole by a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy, who was visibly shaken when talking about the incident more than a day later.
“I’ve never seen anything move so fast and do so much destruction,” Deputy Douglas Duvall said.
The search for Jeff Bush, 37, was called off Saturday. He was in his bedroom Thursday night in Seffner — a suburb of 8,000 people 15 miles east of downtown Tampa — when the ground opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house at the time escape unharmed as the earth crumbled.
The area around Seffner is known for sinkholes due to the geography of the terrain, but they are rarely deadly. No one — from longtime public safety officials to geologists — could remember an incident where a person was sucked into the earth without warning.