SEFFNER, Fla. — Sometime after the sun came up Wednesday, a woman walking her dog past a fenced-off area in a sleepy suburban neighbourhood near Tampa heard a loud rumble. She quickly dialed 911.
The earth had opened, again.
By Wednesday afternoon, a 17-foot wide and 20-foot deep sinkhole had formed in exactly the same place where a man was swallowed by the earth in while sleeping 2013. Hillsborough County officials said it’s likely the hole opened because of all the recent rains and that such activity isn’t uncommon.
In March 2013, Jeffrey Bush was asleep in his bedroom on the property when the floor collapsed and he fell in. His body was never recovered. His brother, Jeremy Bush, was in the house and tried to rescue him, even jumping into the hole. He was rescued by authorities as the ground crumbled around him. Jeremy Bush was seen at the site Wednesday.
After the tragedy, officials razed the Bush home and two adjacent homes. A sinkhole remediation company filled the hole with gravel, and county officials said the company will study the reopening.
“It’s not uncommon for this type of settlement to occur when voids like this happen,” said Michelle Van Dyke, a county spokeswoman.
Wednesday’s sinkhole is on a vacant lot that’s now surrounded by a metal fence and landscaped with trees and shrubs. The sinkhole wasn’t visible from ground level, but aerial photos showed a tidy crater in the ground.
The new sinkhole has led to no reports of injuries and no nearby homes have been evacuated, said Ronnie Rivera of Hillsborough Fire Rescue.
Residents were painfully reminded of the tragedy that befell their quiet neighbourhood two years ago. TV news trucks and reporters’ cars clogged the narrow street. And folks said the fact that the ground opened again made them nervous.
“Well, it’s, um, not expected and you live your life one day at a time,” said 51-year-old Lisa Robinson, who lives a half-dozen houses away from the site and had lived in a different home in the area when the original sinkhole happened.
Robinson said that she’s only renting in the neighbourhood and they’re not planning to stay. She added that she felt it odd that her dog, a beagle named Muppet, refused to go in the backyard the previous night and Wednesday morning.
“I’m pretty certain Muppet knew something was going on,” she said.
Sinkholes are so common in Florida that state law requires home insurers to provide coverage against the danger. While some cars, homes and other buildings have been devoured, it’s rare for them to swallow a person.
Florida is highly prone to sinkholes because there are caverns below ground of limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water.