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Seffner Man Believes Brother Swallowed By Sinkhole is Dead

Our thoughts and prayers are with this family. Very sad and scary situation. Fortunately, catastrophic cover collapse sinkholes are a rare occurrence. In fact, it statistically accounts for about 1% of sinkhole insurance claims in Florida.

Jeremy Bush, the brother of a man sucked into a sinkhole while in bed last night, said he doesn't believe 36-year-old Jeffrey Bush survived the partial collapse of the family's home.

"I feel in my heart he didn't make it," Jeremy Bush said. "There were six of us in the house; five got out."

Authorities were using ground penetrating radar today to find signs of life inside the hole, which opened up about 11 p.m. inside the house at 240 Faithway Drive.

Mobile command units, fire rescue crews, and Bracken Engineering are at the site, checking the stability of the ground and determining when it will be safe to begin rescue/recovery efforts, officials said this afternoon.

The exterior walls of the home remain intact but the hole inside, about 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep, continues to grow, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said at a morning news conference. Crews are examining the ground about 100 feet from the house, cutting a section of side fence to allow equipment onto the property and to determine if the ground is stable.

The American Red Cross is on hand to distribute water to neighbors who have been displaced during the ongoing operations, which officials say will be an all-day process, and Faithway Drive is closed to traffic.

Jeremy Bush, 37, said he had just returned home from a trip to Hardee's restaurant with his girlfriend, Rachel Wicker, and their daughter, Hanna, 2, when the hole opened up under his brother's bedroom with the sound of a car crash.

He said he believes he heard his brother scream and jumped in the hole trying to save him. Deputies arrived to find Jeremy Bush up to his neck in dirt and had to rescue him.

Also making the escape from the house were Norman Wicker, 48, and his sister, Janell Wicker.

Leland L. Wicker, the home's owner and father of Norman, Janelle and Rachael, was not in the house at the time.

"The cops asked me to get out of the hole, because the floor was still giving in, and the dirt was still going down, but I didn't care. I wanted my brother," Jeremy Bush said.

Sheriff's Deputy Douglas Duvall led him from the house before more of the floor collapsed.

"I went to the bedroom and saw the sinkhole had taken the entire bedroom," Duvall said. "I looked down and there was a family member inside the hole that was trying to get the victim out. I reached down and was able to actually get him by his hand and pull him out of the hole. The hole was collapsing. And at that time we left the house."

There has been no contact with the trapped man since. County code enforcement and the county fire marshal condemned the house on an emergency basis and deemed it unsafe for rescue crews to continue working.

Bracken Engineering, a civilian company, was on call to assist the rescue agency, Rogers said. Bracken will help determine if the ground around the house is stable or provide information on how to stabilize it, Rogers said.

"The entire house is on the sinkhole," Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said.

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

Residents living on each side of the affected house have been evacuated as a precaution. Electricity has been cut off to at least one of the adjacent homes, officials said.

Family members told officials there was no previous evidence of sinkhole activity on the interior or exterior of the home.

Neighbor Al Boggs said at the scene that about 10 years ago, another house in the neighborhood had a problem with a sinkhole that required 13 truckloads of cement and mortar to settle.

"It was crazy," Boggs said. "They came in, drilled holes and pumped in the mortar. I've had some cracks in my house but I never thought it was that big a deal."

From the street, the front of the house looked intact, showing no sign there had been a collapse except for the crews from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, the sheriff's office and code enforcement.

One man was boring into the driveway with an industrial drill; yellow power cords crisscrossed the front yard, leading from the house and from houses next door. A generator was in place, too.

The collapse occurred in a neighborhood of tract homes, many built in the early 1970s. The house where the collapse occurred is a four-bedroom, two-bath masonry structure of about 1,600 square feet, built in 1974, according to the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser website.

The house has a market value of about $68,000, according to the website

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