Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Sinkhole body search too dangerous

Jeff Bush, who is presumed dead after a sinkhole opened under his bedroom (AP Photo/Jeremy Bush, HO)

Efforts to find the body of a man swallowed by a sinkhole under his Florida home have been called off amid fears that the building would collapse on rescuers.

The 20ft-wide opening of the sinkhole is almost completely covered by the four-bedroom house in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, and rescue teams feared it would collapse on them if they tried to search for Jeff Bush, 37.

Crews testing the unstable ground surrounding the house evacuated two neighbouring homes as a precaution.

Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill said heavy equipment would now be brought in to begin demolition.

"At this point it's really not possible to recover the body," Mr Merrill said, later adding: "We're dealing with a very unusual sinkhole."

Jessica Damico, spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, said the demolition equipment would be placed on what they believe is solid ground and reach on to the property to pull apart the house.

The crew will try pulling part of the house away from the sinkhole intact so some heirlooms and mementoes can be retrieved.

Mr Bush was in his bedroom on Thursday night when the earth opened, swallowing him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escaped unharmed.

Experts say thousands of sinkholes form yearly in Florida because of the state's unique geography, though most are small and deaths rarely occur.

"There's hardly a place in Florida that's immune to sinkholes," said Sandy Nettles, who owns a geology consulting company in the Tampa area. "There's no way of ever predicting where a sinkhole is going to occur."

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