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Florida sinkhole: House mostly demolished

Sunday, March 03, 2013
Crews began the demolition of a Florida home over a sinkhole where a man is presumed dead after being swallowed by the earth. The demolition, seen above, started on Sunday, March 3, 2013.

Crews began the demolition of a Florida home over a sinkhole where a man is presumed dead after being swallowed by the earth. The demolition, seen above, started on Sunday, March 3, 2013. (KABC Photo)

Crews razed more than half of the Florida home over a sinkhole that swallowed a man three days ago.

The search for Jeff Bush was called off on Saturday, and a heavy machine was moved into position on Sunday on what was believed to be solid ground. The 20-foot-wide opening of the sinkhole was nearly covered by the house, and according to rescuers, there were no signs of life since the hole opened up Thursday night.

Bush's brother, Jeremy Bush, and his relatives prayed with a pastor as the home was demolished. A Bible, family photos, a jewelry box and a pink teddy bear were among the items saved. Firefighters also were able to pick out the purse of one of the women in the home.

Cheers went up from family, friends and neighbors each time something valuable was salvaged.

The demolition stopped for the day Sunday afternoon with only a few walls of the home left standing. Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said the remaining walls would be knocked down Monday and then crews would turn to clearing the debris as much as possible to allow officials and engineers to see the sinkhole in the open.

Officials also will determine 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.

Jeff Bush was in his bedroom Thursday night when the ground opened and took him and everything else in his room. His brother tried to save him to no avail. Five others in the house escaped unharmed as the earth crumbled.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is conducting the investigation. Detective Larry McKinnon said that 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.

The area around the Tampa-area town of Seffner is known for sinkholes due to the geography of the terrain, but they are rarely deadly. No one - from longtime public safety officials to geologists - could remember an incident where a person was sucked into the earth without warning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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