Sinkhole Victim’s Brother: ‘I feel like they could have tried harder to try to get my brother out of there’
The grieving family is “going through hell” and upset crews called off the search for for Florida sinkhole victim Jeff Bush, says his brother Jeremy.
“I feel like they could have tried harder to try to get my brother out of there,” said Jeremy, 37, at a press conference in Seffner, Fla. “My mom and dad are going through so much right now.”
The victim Jeff Bush, 35, was sleeping in his room when a 20-foot-wide sinkhole opened up underneath his bedroom. Five other people, including Jeremy, were in the house at the time, and were able to escape.
“All I could see was the tops of his bed I didn’t see nothing else. So, I jumped in the hole and tried to get him out and I couldn’t get him. All I could hear-I thought I could hear him screaming for me and hollering for me to help him but I couldn’t do nothing,” Bush tearfully recalled to reporters on Friday.
Bush, himself, narrowly escaped and had to be rescued from the still-shifting dirt. The hole under the house is now 50-feet deep.
The family is in shock. “My mom waking up every hour on the hour crying in bed. She’s going through hell. No one ever wants to bury their kid before they go,” Bush said Monday. “And I love my mom and dad with all my heart and I just want my mom and dad to know I love you and I tried to save your son. I tried my hardest.”
Crews called off the search for Jeff Bush on Saturday. “With all the equipment that we brought in and specialized help, we just have not been able to locate Mr. Bush,” Mike Merrill, Hillsborough County Administrator, told reporters.
The area around the sinkhole continues to shift dangerously, so crews continue to work, but at a safer distance using backhoes with large hydraulic arms to drag pieces of the home outward in an effort to prevent more debris from falling into the sinkhole.
“It needs to be done from outside the perimeter with huge equipment that will be able to reach in and bring out whatever we can of the house,” Merrill said.
This approach has allowed the crew to pluck out items of particular value to the family. Among these was a large Bible, which had baptism certificates, cards and photos between its pages. Other items included toys and family photos, but Bush hopes crews can retrieve items that belonged to his younger brother Jeff.
“I want some kind of memories of him,” Bush said to WVTV-TV. “I want his hats. I want his clothes. I want anything that was in his room.”
Jeff Bush lived with his girlfriend Rachel Wicker, with whom he shares a 2-year-old daughter, Hannah, in the home. Leland Wicker, Rachel’s grandfather, has owned the home since the 1970s.
The sinkhole has compromised the stability of neighboring homes, and affected residents were forced to pack up their belongings and evacuate.
Sinkholes are common in Florida, where large amounts of annual rain saturate the earth and gradually erodes underground layers of porous granite and limestone. When the rock layer dissolves, a sinkhole forms and swallows up the earth above it to fill the void.
Crews hope to finish demolition of the house on Monday to further analyze it and confirm the structural integrity of nearby houses.
“It’s going to bother me for the rest of my life, I’m already having trouble,” Jeremy told reporters. “Because I was in the hole rescuing him.”