All walls razed at Florida home where sinkhole devoured man - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

All walls razed at Florida home where sinkhole devoured man

Posted: Updated:

(CNN) -- As a giant red backhoe gouged into the Florida home where a massive sinkhole swallowed a man whole, pieces of the family's lives were pushed into public view.

Walls with picture frames on them came crashing down. Baby toys and clothes on hangers were raked across the ground.

A woman wept as an official handed her a framed portrait. Others lovingly salvaged military awards, a pink teddy bear and an American flag that hung near the house's front door. The family Bible bore claw marks from the backhoe's bucket.

Workers demolished the blue, one-story home as carefully as they could Sunday and Monday to try to salvage belongings for the family of the victim, Jeff Bush.

By Monday afternoon, all the walls of the house had been taken and "a lot of the debris" had been removed, Hillsborough County spokesman Willie Puz said. This was after workers had tried to salvage whatever they could, including photos on a wall and the contents of a china cabinet.

"What we're going to be doing now is to try to stabilize the hole with gravel," Puz added.

But officials have said that Bush's body won't be recovered. It remains buried somewhere in the massive sinkhole that stretches 20 feet wide and more than 50 feet deep.

Authorities made the heartbreaking decision to stop the search for Bush, 36, after his odds of survival became abundantly clear.

"We just have not been able to locate Mr. Bush, and so for that reason, the rescue effort is being discontinued," Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill told reporters Saturday. "At this point, it's really not possible to recover the body."

A deafening noise

The family's nightmare began Thursday night, just as everyone was about to go to sleep.

A deafening noise shattered the peace in the house in the Tampa suburb of Seffner.

Jeremy Bush heard his brother scream and ran toward Jeff's bedroom.

"Everything was gone. My brother's bed, my brother's dresser, my brother's TV. My brother was gone," he told CNN's "AC360."

Jeremy Bush jumped into the hole and frantically shoveled away rubble. But as the house's floor further collapsed, a sheriff's deputy pulled him to safety and his brother remained trapped below.

"I couldn't get him out," Jeremy Bush said, weeping. "I tried so hard. I tried everything I could."

Jeremy Bush and four others, including a 2-year-old child, were uninjured.

'One step at a time'

After the search for Jeff Bush ended, attention turned to razing the house, which officials warned could collapse at any time.

The demolition crew worked for only a few hours Sunday to give the family time to sift through their belongings, Merrill said.

Once officials get a better view of the sinkhole, "they can get a sense of what the next step is," Merrill, the county administrator, said Sunday.

"This is one step at a time, because we really don't know what we're dealing with here," he said.

A common problem in Florida

Sinkholes are a common problem in the state, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Florida lies on bedrock made of limestone or other carbonate rock that can be eaten away by acidic groundwater, forming voids that collapse when the rock can no longer support the weight of what's above it.

Hillsborough County, on Florida's west coast, is part of an area known as "sinkhole alley" that accounts for two-thirds of the sinkhole-related insurance claims in the state, according to a Florida state Senate Insurance and Banking Committee report.

'So many memories'

The crater that suddenly caved under the Bush house devastated a family that had lived there for generations.

After officials called off the search for his brother's body, Jeremy Bush told Bay News 9 the family was despondent.

"It's not just I lost my brother. There are so many memories in this house," he told the CNN affiliate. "My wife and her brother and the whole family.

"Every holiday, we gathered at this house. Her grandmother passed away. All the stuff to remember her by is in this house, and we're losing it all. You can't replace that. You can't replace a life being gone."

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Web Exclusive: Texas is among hottest job markets

    Web Exclusive: Texas is among hottest job markets

    Monday, September 15 2014 9:42 AM EDT2014-09-15 13:42:30 GMT
    The city you live in could play a major factor in landing that dream gig if you're on the job hunt.  A new survey is suggesting parts of the country expect an increase in the labor force.More >>
    The city you live in could play a major factor in landing that dream gig if you're on the job hunt.  A new survey is suggesting parts of the country expect an increase in the labor force.More >>
  • Kilgore Restore Projects Gain Support

    Kilgore Restore Projects Gain Support

    Monday, September 15 2014 12:05 AM EDT2014-09-15 04:05:28 GMT
    KILGORE (KYTX) - This group of men and women gather around this chipped, scratched, and vandalized sign that welcomes people into Dansby Village to discuss plans to fix it. Abandoned stores around this neighborhood show signs of a once thriving community, and this group is hoping to attract businesses back. Their first project is repairing these entry signs. Founder of RESTORE! Kilgore, LaMont Wheat says making the neighborhood look better is the first step to attracting businesses."Our inten...More >>
    KILGORE (KYTX) - This group of men and women gather around this chipped, scratched, and vandalized sign that welcomes people into Dansby Village to discuss plans to fix it. Abandoned stores around this neighborhood show signs of a once thriving community, and this group is hoping to attract businesses back. Their first project is repairing these entry signs. Founder of RESTORE! Kilgore, LaMont Wheat says making the neighborhood look better is the first step to attracting businesses."Our inten...More >>
  • Tyler woman warning others about scam

    Tyler woman warning others about scam

    Monday, September 15 2014 12:19 PM EDT2014-09-15 16:19:12 GMT
    TYLER (KYTX) - An East Texas woman avoids a scam that she says could have cost her thousands of dollars.More >>
    TYLER (KYTX) - An East Texas woman avoids a scam that she says could have cost her thousands of dollars.More >>
Powered by WorldNow

CBS19, MYTX & KCEB
2211 ESE Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75701
Phone (903) 581-2211
Fax (903) 581-5769

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KYTX. All Rights Reserved. Users of this site agree to the Terms of Service, Privacy Notice/Your California Privacy Rights, and Ad Choices.