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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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Family mourns as demolition continues at Seffner sinkhole house

SEFFNER - Authorities hope to get a better look at a sinkhole that swallowed a man in his Florida home once demolition crews knock down the remaining walls of the house today and begin clearing away the debris. With the demolition going on as a backdrop, the man’s brother, Jeremy Bush, talked to reporters. He tried to pull his brother, Jeff, out of the hole when the floor collapsed Thursday night. “It’s hard to see [the hole],” he said, “but that’s where the hole was; where I jumped in. I just want him to know I love him. I tried to get you out, bro.”
He said the death and demolition of the family home is taking its toll. “My mom and dad are going though hell right now,” he said. “She’s waking up every hour crying in bed.” County emergency officials said it is too dangerous to try to send workers in to retrieve the body, though Jeremy Bush had hoped the effort would be greater. He said he doubts the remains of his 37-year-old brother will be recovered. After the house is demolished and hauled away and after the ground is stabilized, “What I would like to see is some kind of headstone for it,” Jeremy Bush said, “a memorial, a bench where my mom can sit. “I really believe that’s where he’s going to stay,” he said. “That’s his resting place.” Crews on Sunday razed more than half the home, managing to salvage some keepsakes for family members who lived there. Demolition work continued today on the site and county officials say they hope to tear the home down and haul it away by the end of the day today. The opening of the sinkhole has been covered by the home, but once emergency officials and engineers can see inside it more clearly, they could begin planning how to deal with it. They also need to decide 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. The search for Jeff Bush was called off Saturday. He was in his bedroom Thursday night 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 Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is conducting the investigation. Detective Larry McKinnon said the sheriff's office and the county medical examiner cannot declare Bush dead if his body is still missing. Under Florida law, Bush's family must petition a court to declare him deceased. "Based on the circumstances, he's presumed dead; however the official death certificate can only be issued by a judge and the family has to petition the court," McKinnon said. 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. 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.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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