Video shows view inside killer sinkhole

Video shows view inside killer sinkhole

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The view down the sinkhole in Jeffrey Bush's bedroom. The view down the sinkhole in Jeffrey Bush's bedroom.
SEFFNER (FOX 13) -

Two more homes have been condemned after a sinkhole swallowed and killed a Seffner man last month, and we're getting our first look at video shot inside the home before it was demolished.

Jeffrey Bush, 37, died when the hole opened up while he slept in the bedroom of the Faithway Drive home. His brother, Jeremy, tried to jump into the hole and save Jeff. He said at the time part of the bed could be seen below in the hole.

But the video -- shot by a contractor who examined the hole just before the home was demolished and provided by the county -- shows the sinkhole had grown to the point that it had swallowed the bed and Jeff Bush's body completely. All that can be seen in the hole is dirt.

The footage shows there was almost no floor remaining in the bedroom, though amazingly, clothes and other personal effects were still hanging on the walls, apparently undisturbed.

Bush's body was never recovered. The family has said they're hoping to regain control of the property from the county so they can setup a permanent memorial for Jeff.

Now it appears that the family's neighbors will not be able to return to their own homes. The houses on each side of the sinkhole house will have to be condemned, the county says.

"Because of the additional threat of subsidence (sinkhole) activity, geophysical testing was performed at all three sites by engineering consultants. The results of the geophysical tests concluded that the subsurface soils were unstable as subsidence activity is evidenced at each site," County Administrator Michael Merrill stated in an April 1 letter to county commissioners.

As a result of the findings, the homes will be condemned. Merrill's letter says that residents should consult engineers before they try to go back in and collect their belongings.

'A mighty powerful guardian angel'

For Jeff Bush's family and friends, the video was difficult to watch. Janell Wicker Wheeler never thought she wanted to see it.

"No...no, it's too emotional, it's too raw. It's still, it's still unreal to me," she said.

Janell's father is Buddy Wicker, the owner of the house. The night the sinkhole opened, Janell was in the room next to the one where Jeff Bush was sleeping.

Janell watched the video with FOX 13 so she could see what it really looked like. Crews never allowed her family to get too close after they were rushed out.

A small camera was mounted on a pole by first responders. The video, released by Hillsborough County, shows the camera going through a back window into Jeff's room.

As it pans, the camera shows a horrific scene. An enormous hole stretches down for at least 60 feet. The flooring in Jeff's room is ripped apart like paper. Every piece of furniture is gone, and looking into the hole, there is no sign of a bed or dresser or TV.

"Looking at this picture here," Janell said, "I cannot believe it's that deep. I figured just a little hole. I just can't imagine, that it's that deep."

She pointed out where Jeff's bed was and where his closet was. Janell knows she's fortunate to be here, because first responders told her the hole spread under her closet and into her bedroom too.

"One of the gentleman that was out there, came up and said I must have had a mighty powerful guardian angel," she said.

As we looked at the video, we asked Janell, "What is the hardest part for you?"

"Thinking back to that night, just, I'm good with it every once in a while. But if I sit and think about it, you can't even explain it. It's just something you can't explain. The feeling and the horror of when it first happened," she said.

No warning signs

She recalls that she heard a loud crash that night and went running into the hall. She watched Jeff's brother Jeremy run into Jeff's room.

"Jeremy jumped in the hole right about there, " she explained, pointing to a spot just past the door. "He was trying to dig him out and walking all along there trying to dig him out."

One of the hardest things for Janell to figure out is why there were no warning signs before the collapse.

"I just can't fathom why that floor didn't, just did not collapse on us," she said. "I don't understand. There were no cracks in the wall. The house, when the hole opened up, the house did not move. It did not shake, it did not move, nothing."

Hillsborough County had told the family all along, they could not recover Jeff's body. They said it was too dangerous and put other lives in danger. Now that Janell sees this video, she says she understands.

"I totally understand why they could not get him now. I understand that. It took me a couple of days, but after hearing all the reports and everything everyone was telling us. There was, I didn't want any other lives risked," she said.

As for the family, they are getting by.

"We're doing good, we're getting by day by day. We have some bad days, and some are good days."

For now, they are living in a rental house that their insurance helped them get.

But they are looking for something more permanent.

In the meantime, for Janell, life is still nowhere near back to normal.

"I call my family and they are all having trouble sleeping. But getting back to normal, I don't know, how long or if it will ever come."

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