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Florida Man Swallowed by Large, Sudden Sinkhole

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SEFFNER, Florida (AP) — A Florida man screamed for help and disappeared as a large sinkhole opened under his bedroom, his brother said Friday. No signs of life had been found.

Jeremy Bush heard a loud crash and screaming. He said it took him seconds to get to his brother Jeff's room near midnight Thursday, but the earth had already swallowed him.

Jeremy Bush said he jumped into the hole and was quickly up to his neck in dirt.

"The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted to save my brother," he said. "But I just couldn't do nothing."

He added: "He was screaming my name. I could swear I heard him hollering my name to help him."

An arriving law enforcement officer pulled him to safety. "I reached down and was able to actually able to get him by his hand and pull him out of the hole. The hole was collapsing. At that time, we left the house," Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Douglas Duvall said.

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

There's been no contact with 36-year-old Jeff Bush since then, and neighbors on both sides of the home have been evacuated.

"We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn't see anything compatible with life," Damico said. But Damico would not say that the man is presumed dead.

Damico estimated that the sinkhole was about 30 feet (9 meters) across.

"The entire house is on the sinkhole," Damico said.

Sinkholes are common in seaside Florida, whose underlying limestone and dolomite can be worn away by water and chemicals, then collapse. Authorities on Friday said they used equipment especially for such situations that can detect sounds as faint as a mouse running over a floor.

But the equipment detected nothing from the missing man.

From the outside of the house, nothing appeared wrong. There were no cracks, and the only sign something was amiss was the yellow caution tape circling the house.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesman Larry McKinnon said Friday they asked sinkhole and engineering experts to come to the home. The experts are using equipment to see if the ground can support the weight of heavy machinery that is needed for the recovery effort.

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

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

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

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

___

Associated Press writers Chris O'Meara and Tamara Lush contributed.



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