Fla. Man Disappears Into Massive Sinkhole

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
March 1 2013 10:38 AM

Fla. Man Feared Dead After Disappearing Into Massive Sinkhole

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Sinkholes are common in Florida. This one, near Orlando, took out some trees, pipes, and a section of sidewalk.

Photo by Chris Livingston/Getty Images

A strange and frightening story out of (where else?) Florida is dominating cable news this morning: A man, at home on a Thursday night, has disappeared into a sinkhole that opened up under his bedroom.

The 100 foot-diameter hole in Brandon, a Tampa suburb, is still expanding, taking more and more of the house with it. It doesn't look like this story will have a happy ending: monitoring equipment lowered into the hole by Hillsborough County Fire Department officials found no signs of life.

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Nevertheless, it seems as if crews are nearby to take whatever ending to the story they can get. Here's CNN, interviewing the man's brother (emphasis ours):

"I heard a loud crash, like a car coming through the house," the man's brother, Jeremy Bush, told CNN affiliate WFTS. "I heard my brother screaming and I ran back there and tried going inside his room, but my old lady turned the light on and all I seen was this big hole, a real big hole, and all I saw was his mattress." Bush frantically tried to rescue his brother, Jeff Bush, standing in the hole and digging at the rubble with a shovel until police arrived and pulled him out, saying the floor was still collapsing. "I thought I heard him holler for me to help him," the man tearfully told WFTS..."I know in my heart he's dead," Jeremy Bush said. "But I just want to be here for him, because I love him, he was my brother, man."

Five people, including Bush, escaped from the house.

As Slate explained back in 2010, sinkholes in North America open up in areas with limestone or dolomite bedrock. Florida and Kentucky are the most vulnerable to them. But even in Florida, large sinkholes that seemingly instantly swallow up a house (or person) are very rare.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.