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Sinkhole that swallowed Florida man 'unstable,' officials say

 

A Florida man screamed for help and disappeared as a large sinkhole opened under the bedroom of a house, his brother said Friday.

The brother told rescue crews he heard a loud crash near midnight Thursday, then heard his brother screaming.

"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," Damico said. 

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

In a press conference Friday night, officials said the sinkhole is seriously unstable and they think it will grow.

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says no one can go into the house right now because they are afraid of losing more lives. Engineers say the soil around the house is very soft and there is a potential for another collapse.

Fire and rescue officials say there "are no signs of life" from Bush, and say it's a recovery mission, not a rescue effort, MyFoxTampaBay.com reports. 

"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.

"We heard a loud crash. I ran in there and heard somebody screaming, my brother screaming, and I ran all in there," Jeremy Bush, the victim's brother told MyFoxTampaBay.com.  

"And all I see is this big hole. All I see is the top of his bed. I didn't see anything else, so I jumped in the hole and tried getting him out. And I couldn't get him. I could hear him screaming for me, hollering for me."

A deputy jumped in to pull Jeremy out, possibly saving his life.

"I went into the bedroom and I saw the sinkhole in the entire bedroom," Deputy Douglas Duvall told MyFoxTampaBay.com. "I saw the family member inside the hole who was trying to get the victim out. I reached out and was able to grab his hand and pull him out of the hole."

"I couldn't get myself out," Jeremy Bush said. "The cop had to get me out."

Officials said the hole was about 30 feet in width and 20 feet deep.

MyFoxTampaBay.com reports that rescuers tried to send a camera and listening device into the hole but it was swallowed up. 

"Right now, the potential for a collapse is very, very high," Damico told MyFoxTampaBay.com. 

A total of five adults, one child and two dogs were in the home. 

Damico says Bracken Engineering officials determined the home's bedroom is the center of the sinkhole.

Tampa TV station WFTS reports the man's brother tried to pull him from the sinkhole. An arriving deputy was able to pull the brother from the still collapsing sinkhole.

Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times she was inside the house when the sinkhole opened.

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

It was dark. She remembered 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, sleeping in her car.

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

The state of Florida has the most sinkholes in the United States. 

Click for more from MyFoxTampaBay.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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