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House Demolished After Sinkhole Swallows Man

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A sinkhole swallowed  a sleeping man in his bedroom underneath this house near Tampa. (Source: WTSP-TV/CBS)

A sinkhole swallowed a sleeping man in his bedroom underneath this house near Tampa. (Source: WTSP-TV/CBS)

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SEFFNER (CBS4/AP) — Construction crews got to work Sunday razing a Tampa-area home over a huge sinkhole less than 24 hours after the search for one of the men who lived in the home, and was swallowed up the earth, was called off.

The search for Jeff Bush, 37, was called off Saturday. Rescuers said there were no signs of life since the hole opened Thursday night.

“With all the equipment we brought in and specialized help we just have not been able to locate Mr. Bush,” said Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill.

Jeremy Bush, who tried to save his brother, knelt in prayer outside the house Sunday morning before the demolition began.

“It is going to bother me for the rest of my life probably,” said Bush. “I’m going to have trouble because I was in the hole trying to rescue him.”

Merrill said said the crews’ goal for Sunday was to knock down the house and on Monday they would clear the debris as much as possible to allow officials and engineers to see the 30 foot wide, 60 foot deep sinkhole in the open.

“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,” said Merrill.

Demolition paused Sunday morning as firefighters just outside the home went through belongings found inside, putting items such as books, binders and what looked like photo albums into boxes. They brought them to the Bush family.

The Rev. John Martin Bell of Shoals Baptist Church said he had been with the Bush family all morning.

“We just prayed with them,” he said, adding that the family hopes to salvage keepsakes such as photographs.

Bell said the five other people who lived in the house – Jeremy Bush, 35; his girlfriend, Rachel Wicker, 27; their daughter, Hannah, 2; and two others ages 50 and 45 — were in need of support and prayers from the community.

Jeff Bush was in his bedroom Thursday night when the ground opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house escape unharmed as the earth crumbled.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is conducting the investigation. Detective Larry McKinnon said that sheriff’s office and the county medical examiner cannot declare Bush dead if his body is still missing. Under Florida law, Bush’s family must petition a court to declare him deceased.

“Based on the circumstances, he’s presumed dead, however the official death certificate can only be issued by a judge and the family has to petition the court,” McKinnon said.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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