First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Sleeping Man Swallowed By Florida Sinkhole

Unsafe Conditions Prevent Rescue Attempt

A HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FLORIDA, MAN IS PRESUMED dead this morning after being plunged into a sinkhole that opened up directly beneath his bedroom.

The sinkhole opened directly beneath this house and
the interior is now completely swallowed.  The sinkhole
is still expanding and the surface entrance is beginning to
become exposed outside of the home's foundations.  WFLW-TV / Chapin photo

BayNews9 is reporting:

Jeremy Bush said he ran into his brother Jeffrey's room at about 11 p.m. when he heard screams. "I heard a loud crash and ran into the room," Jeremy said. "All I could see was the the top of the bed. He (Jeffrey) was hollering for me to help him. I tried to help him but I couldn't do nothing."

A neighbor said she heard the screams also and went across the street to the home. She saw Jeremy and Jeffrey in the hole, although Jeremy was able to crawl out with help from a responding deputy, the neighbor said.

By the time more help arrived, Jeffrey was still in the hole that had grown to be about 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep, an official said. Neighboring homes have been evacuated by authorities although the hole is only under the one home. Officials said the damage is contained to the inside of the home at this point.

Five people, including a 2-year-old child were in the home when the sinkhole opened up.

WFLA-TV filed this early aerial video:

 Tampa Bay News, Weather, and Sports | WFLA

The Tampa Bay Times adds:

Someone called 911, and a deputy reportedly found a man trying to pull his broother out of the hole when he arrived. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue has not not yet released their names.

The deputy pulled one of the men from the growing hole. But the other man, a 36-year-old, disappeared into the rubble.

Janell Wheeler was inside the house with four other adults, a child and two dogs when the sinkhole opened. She sat huddled in a lawn chair Friday morning, covered in a green quilt. "It sounded like a car hit my house," she said.

It was dark. She remembers 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 Baby Girl, sleeping in her Ford Focus. "I just want my nephew," she said through tears.

Hillsborough County Fire – Rescue responded promptly to the scene but were unable to get to the victim who had already disappeared when they arrived.  A construction engineering firm responded with a team to evaluate the structure and the sinkhole.  They quickly advised that the situation was so dangerous that it was life-threatening to rescuers and immediately canceled the effort.

The engineers were able to lower a camera and microphone into the sinkhole but were unable to discover any sign of the victim.  By then the hole had grown to more than 30 ft. deep and 20 ft. wide, and still expanding.  As of this morning the hole is estimated to be 100 ft. deep with the surface entrance showing in the back yard of the house.  The entire interior of the home has been swallowed.  From the outside the extent of the danger is deceptively hidden.

Tampa Bay Times photo

The situation is still ongoing and several nearby homes have been evacuated as a precaution.  The sheriff has officially deemed the victim to be presumed dead and rescue attempts have been converted to a recovery effort.

WFLA-TV has more HERE.

WFTS-TV posted this video report from the scene:


The Associated Press posted this press statement from the Hillsborough County Fire Chief:


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