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Sinkhole swallows Florida man while he was asleep

9:34 AM, Mar 1, 2013   |    comments
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By Grayson Kamm

SEFFNER, Fla. (WTSP) - A sinkhole that opened up late Thursday beneath a house near Tampa swallowed up one man sleeping in a bedroom and almost pulled in the victim's brother who was trying to save him.

Rescue teams, unable to get into the still unstable structure in Seffner, Fla., have lowered a microphone and video equipment into the hole but have not heard from the 36-year-old man, identified as Jeremy Bush.

"We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn't see anything compatible with life," Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said.

The victim's brother, Jeffrey, said he heard a loud crash around 11 p.m. Thursday and then heard his brother scream for help.

"When he got there, there was no bedroom left," Damico said. "There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up."

Deputy Douglas Duvall, who was summoned by a 911 call, said "the sinkhole was taking the whole bedroom" when he arrived and saw Jeffrey down in the hole struggling to find his brother.

"I reached him and actually got him by his hand and pulled him out of the hole," Duvall told WTSP. "The hole was collapsing."

Houses on both sides of the damaged structure have been evacuated.

Damico said that at the surface, she estimates the sinkhole is about 30 feet across but officials say the sinkhole spreads to about 100 feet across below the surface.

Authorities were waiting for an engineering crew to bring monitoring equipment to determine the borders of the sinkhole, she said.

Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times she was inside the house with four other adults, a child and two dogs when the sinkhole opened.

"It sounded like a car hit my house," she said.

It was dark. She remembered screams and one of her nephews rushing to rescue his brother, trapped in the debris.

Wheeler's house was condemned. The rest of the family went to a hotel but she stayed behind with her dog, sleeping in her car.

"I just want my nephew," she said through tears.

Contributing: Associated Press

USA Today/WTSP

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