Demolition begun on Florida house to stabilise sinkhole


A wrecking crew yesterday partly razed a Florida house where a sinkhole had swallowed up a man as he slept, but the demolition team went about its job as carefully as possible to preserve the home’s contents for survivors.

Rescue workers had given up the search for Jeff Bush, a 37-year-old landscaper, on Saturday. He was presumed dead after disappearing into the hole, which opened up under his bedroom on Thursday night. Sinkholes are common in Florida due to the state’s geology and are virtually impossible to predict.

With family members and others watching, a crane clawed at the suburban bungalow for two hours, demolishing about half of it. The job is due to be completed today.

Jeremy Bush, Jeff’s brother, who had jumped into the sinkhole in a futile attempt to save him, said the family was discussing plans for a memorial service and a possible marker at the site. “He was a good guy. He would give you the shirt off his back,” Mr Bush said of his brother.

Five other people in the house, owned by the family of Jeremy Bush’s fiancee, had been preparing for bed on Thursday when they heard a crash and Mr Bush screaming.

Once the house is torn down, efforts would begin to stabilise the sinkhole, said William Puz, a spokesman for Hillsborough County. The hole was about 30ft (9m) wide and 60ft (18m) deep, and filled with clay and debris.

Before the demolition started, Jeremy Bush, also a landscaper, was escorted by a deputy sheriff to the mailbox at the start of the driveway. He knelt and put flowers on the ground, bowing his head for a few minutes before getting up and retreating behind police tape.

Wanda Carter (49), who had grown up in the house, said she could not watch as it was being torn down. “We have each other and that’s all that matters,” she said.

Common occurrence

The risk of sinkholes is common in Florida due to porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Rainwater filtering through dissolves this rock, leading to underground caverns which collapse to form sinkholes.

Two nearby houses have been evacuated because the sinkhole has weakened the ground under them, said Jessica Damico of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

– (Reuters)