The brother of the man who disappeared into a sinkhole that opened suddenly beneath his bedroom last week said Monday that more should have been done to find his brother.
"They said the ground’s too unstable to do anything, but they've got all this heavy equipment on there, pulling stuff out, and everybody’s cheering for everything that’s coming out of the house," an emotional Jeremy Bush said during an impromptu news conference held while crews produced the first view of the deep hole that developed under the house at 240 Faithway Drive last Thursday night.
"I’ve had enough of the cheering about the stuff or the memories that are coming out of the house," he said. "I’m grateful that they did what I asked them to do – pull out that side of the house first instead of my part of the house. I’m grateful for that – they got what they wanted. Now, let’s try and get my brother out. That’s what I want."
Jeff Bush, 37, had just gone to bed when the hole opened and pulled him down. Jeremy Bush attempted to rescue him, but couldn't help and had to be saved himself by a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy who had responded to a 911 call.
On Friday afternoon, authorities said Jeff Bush was presumed dead.
Authorities maintained that the ground was too unstable to send search and recovery teams down into the hole. They also said there were no environmental conditions inside the sinkhole that could sustain human life.
On Monday, Jeremy Bush said he doesn't accept the explanation the conditions were too unsafe for a search.
"You see all this heavy equipment?" he said. "The house is still standing. The only reason the house fell is because they put the machines on it.
"I feel they could have tried harder to get my brother out of there. That was my brother. My mom and dad are going through so much right now. Nobody is even talking about my mom and dad, what they’re going through. My mom and dad don’t want to be on camera or anything, but my mom and dad are going through hell right now."
Jeremy Bush lived at the house with his fiancee, Rachel Wicker, along with their 2-year-old daughter and other family members. Jeff Bush had recently moved in.
"This is the Wicker house," Jeremy Bush said Monday. "This is the Wicker property. I’m just married into the family.
"My brother is in the hole, yes, and that’s where he is going to rest if they cannot get him out. But this is the Wicker house, not the Bush family house. My mom and dad are grieving really hard and there’s no one saying anything about my mom and dad at all. And I want the media and everybody to know my mom and dad are going through hell too. They lost a son."
Bush said he asked the operator of the trackhoe to try and retrieve anything he could from his brother's room.
"It’s hard to see his hole," Jeremy Bush said. "That’s the hole I was in trying to get my brother out of. I tried the hardest I could. I wanted to let him know I love him. 'I tried my hardest to get you out, bro.'
"I think I’m the only one that really tried to get you out."
Crews get first look at deadly sinkhole
Crews demolishing the Seffner home where a sinkhole opened up last week removed enough debris Monday morning to get a first look at the hole.
Workers carefully removed debris throughout Monday before using a trackhoe on a back part of the home. Enough of the rubble was cleared to clearly see the large sinkhole that officials have said may be as deep as 60 feet.
Excavation crews then took down all of the walls around the house and removed a lot of the debris. Hillsborough County Communications Spokesman Willie Puz said their next step is filling the sinkhole with gravel so they can stabilize it.
Puz said they are trying to avoid putting anyone else's life in danger.
"If you were able to see earlier inside one of those rooms, there is a cable coming from one of the windows," he said. "The cable was our equipment that was collapsed upon and lost. Any additional loss of life would have made this tragedy even worse."
Crews also retrieved some items from the home again for the family, as they skillfully did on Sunday with a trackhoe.
"We will try to salvage some materials (from the home); family members asked us to do that," said Puz. "We will use the long arm of the trackhoe to tear down the rest of the house.
"Hopefully, today we will have the house down to the ground and then we may have a better understanding of the size of the sinkhole."
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill says the remaining walls of the home would be knocked down and crews would turn to clearing the debris now and evaluate the sinkhole.
Officials also will determine what will happen to the two homes on either side of the demolished house. They still have not yet determined if those homes will be condemned.
On Sunday, Hillsborough County public works began the work of demolishing the home with a backhoe. Crews were able to tear into the front of the house with the trackhoe's bucket and carefully pull forward several of the family items, including a portrait, a Bible, a tall speaker and a purse that had been hanging on a wall.
Crews worked until late morning, tearing down most of the front of the house, but leaving the entire sinkhole - now said to be 50 to 60 feet deep and 30 feet wide - covered by the back portion of the structure.
Sinkhole swallows room Thursday night
Jeffrey Bush, 37, was pulled down into the hole when it developed without warning about 11 p.m. Thursday at 240 Faithway Drive. Sensitive microphones and a small camera were lowered into the hole Friday and produced no signs that Bush was alive.
Bush was asleep around 11 p.m. in his bedroom when the hole opened underneath him, pulling him underground.
Jeremy Bush tried to rescue him, but the collapse happened too quickly, and he had to be helped himself by a Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy who arrived after another family member called 911.
Jeremy Bush and four other people, including his fiancee, Rachel Wicker and their 2-year-old child, escaped the home without injury. The home is owned by Buddy Wicker, Rachel's grandfather.
On Saturday, experts measured and monitored the hole and determined it would not send recovery personnel inside.
“It’s not possible to recover the body,” Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill said, later adding, "We're dealing with a very unusual sinkhole."
The houses on either side of sky-blue home have also been deemed compromised by the sinkhole and have been evacuated. A fund has been set up to benefit Bush's family and that donations can be made through the website www.firefighter-relief.com.
Rare and dangerous kind of sinkhole
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water. A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state's environmental agency.
The collapse of the concrete floor beneath the bedroom was caused by a cover sinkhole, the rarest and often most catastrophic kind. Cover sinkholes occur where a layer of clay sits above the limestone, experts said.
The limestone is pocked with caverns. Something triggers the clay atop a cavern to begin trickling into the hole, and more and more of it drops away until all that's left is a slender land bridge. Then the bridge falls.