The news was grim for the family and neighbors of Jeffrey Bush, who cried out in distress last night moments before his bedroom collapsed into the ground. At a press conference tonight, March 1, the officials investigating the sinkhole at 240 Faithway Drive in Seffner could only say that the sinkhole was "unprecedented" and extremely dangerous.
"We really are just handicapped . . . we really can't do more than just sit and wait," said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers, addressing a sea of media lined up to hear the early night report. "It's a tough situation and even tougher for the family."
- See Family Member Recalls 'Horror' of Seffner Sinkhole Tragedy'
- See Video: Hillsborough Fire Chief Discusses Seffner Sinkhole (earlier March 1)
Giving his assessment of the situation was Larry Madrid, a recognized sinkhole specialist.
"We have determined that it is a sinkhole that has caused this," he said. "We’ve determined that there was an initial collapse, followed very shortly by another collapse. We have noticed movement in the ground since then. The hole, it has gotten deeper."
The investigation has been restricted to the outside of the building, "because we can't get into the building right now due to the potential for a sudden collapse," Madrid said.
He added that the side sloes of the hole are "still very steep" and that the "soil is extremely soft, based on the soundings that we've done in the front and the back of the house," all of which "tells us that eventually the sinkhole will continue to grow."
Madrid noted that there is a top layer of sand, approximately 25 feet deep, that is in a soft, or loose condition. Beneath that is another "25 to 55 feet, perhaps as much as 60 feet," of "clay, silky sand that is in a very, very soft condition."
"We've also measured the water pressure and there's indications that there is continued movement," he added. "Finally, limestone was encountered below a depth of 57 feet."
All of which adds up to a situation that Bill Bracken, of Bracken Engineering, a chief engineer with Hillsorough's urban, search and rescue team called an extemely unsafe situation.
"There is a very large, very fluid mass underneath this house, rendering the entire house, and the entire lot dangerous and unsafe," he said. "Unsafe for equipment or any type of vibration. That’s going to severly limit what were doing."
As Rogers put it: "We're still trying to define the scope of this cavern under the ground" and "what, if anything, we can do."
At this point in time, he added, "this is a very complex situation, a very complex collapse."
Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill also spoke at the press conference.
"We're doing everything we can to look for the gentleman, Mr. Bush," he said. But "this is a chasm that covers a great distance" which renders the area "seriously unstable."
- Photos From the Scene of Sinkhole in Seffner
- Hillsborough County Among Top 10 Sinkhole-Prone Florida Counties
- Update: Sinkhole Swallows Seffner Man Sleeping in Bedroom