SEFFNER — The curious joined Faithway Drive residents and the relatives of a man swallowed in a yawning sinkhole inside his home on Sunday as county crews used a massive backhoe to destroy the house.
The body of Jeff Bush, 37, disappeared into the hole that opened up inside his home Thursday night. His brother, Jeremy, tried to pull Bush out, but was unable. The sinkhole could not be seen from outside the home, but Hillsborough County emergency workers said houses next door could be in danger of collapsing if the hole widens.
County officials confirmed Sunday that there was no way of recovering the body.
The backhoe with an extended hydraulic arm parked some 40 feet away and began tearing at the small cinderblock and wood house Sunday morning as relatives of Bush, presumed dead, watched from across the street. Little by little, the inside of the home was revealed to the family, which hugged each other and wept at times, and to the throng of onlookers.
Pictures were on the walls, clothes hung in the closets and the tops of dressers were covered with personal items.
Such property was dragged into the front yard and deposited so firefighters could collect them and cart them in boxes across the street to the family waiting.
The backhoe operator, Dan Darnell, alternately tore at the roof and sides of the building with splintering ferocity and gently gathered up small items he spotted with the huge bucket, once collecting a purse left on a dresser.
The family cheered then and another time when the corner board with the home’s address on it came tumbling down.
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said the family appreciated the skill Darnell exhibited in extracting the personal items.
The family, he said, is experiencing a range of emotions, watching the home that has been theirs for three generations being ripped down and knowing that Bush was buried beneath it.
“This family is close-knit,” he said.
John Lyons, director of the county’s public utilities department, said the demolition would continue into Monday, with contractors dragging debris a safe distance from the home to be collected and hauled away.
Geotechnical engineers were there on Sunday to see if the vibration caused by the demolition would widen the 20-foot-wide hole inside the home, and possibly endanger nearby structures.
“Surprisingly,” said Lyons, “everything is holding up.”
They will examine the cavern once the debris is removed and figure out how to stabilize the hole so that it doesn’t get any larger.
J.W. Carr, pastor of the nearby Faith Baptist Church, addressed the tragedy in his sermon Sunday morning, saying that out of this incident, there came some good. People who lived on the street didn’t all know each other, he said, but now, they have formed a close group offering support to one of their own.
“What a blessing it is that came out of such a tragedy,” he said. “There is a different spirit in that neighborhood.”