The search for a Florida man who was swallowed as he slept by a large sinkhole that formed beneath his bedroom has now turned to a "recovery operation".
The man, 37-year-old Jeff Bush of Brandon, Florida, had gone to bed at around 11:00 PM on Thursday night when the ground beneath his bedroom caved-in, forming a 100 foot deep cavern that quickly filled with dirt, rocks and debris from the bedroom. Bush's brother Jeremy was alerted to the disaster after hearing Jeff's screams for help as he sank deeper into the chasm. Jeremy desperately tried to save his brother, risking his own life as the sinkhole continued to grow and expand.
"We heard a loud crash," Jeremy told My Fox Tampa Bay , breaking down into tears of despair. "I ran in there and heard somebody screaming, my brother screaming, and I ran in there.
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."
Rescue workers quickly arrived at the scene to assess the dangerous situation. It was quickly ascertained that rescuers could not use heavy equipment to help save the man, for fear the sinkhole would expand even larger, swallowing up the rest of the home and the equipment along with the rescuers. Crews have been using ground penetrating sonar equipment at the site to map the extent of the sinkhole. Listening devices and cameras have been placed into the chasm, but were unable to make any contact with the man.
As a precautionary measure, other homes near the site of the sinkhole have been evacuated. Experts say Bush is only the second person to be killed by a sinkhole in the United States over the course of the past forty years. Florida, Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania are the states most affected by sinkholes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Sinkholes form due to erosion created by underground water that gathers naturally or due to man-made activities. As the water begins to dissolve the foundation beneath the top surface, spaces and caverns begin to develop underground. Rock such as limestone and carbonate, which is plentiful in Florida, is more prone to erosion. The top layer of the ground remains stable until the eroded layer beneath gives way, causing the ground to open up, swallowing anything that happens to be above ground at the time.