On March 1, 2013, Jeff Bush, 37, was asleep in his bedroom when a sinkhole opened up beneath his home in Seffner, Florida. The hole, which was about 6 meters (20 feet) across and deep, swallowed him and most of his bedroom in a matter of seconds. Jeff’s brother Jeremy and his partner Rachel were in another room when they heard a loud bang and Jeff’s scream. Rushing to the bedroom, they found it had disappeared, replaced by a gaping hole in the ground.
According to The Guardian, Jeremy immediately jumped down into the hole to try to save his brother but had to be pulled to safety by a Hillsborough County deputy sheriff as the ground continued to collapse around him. “The floor was still giving in and the dirt was still going down, but I didn’t care. I wanted to save my brother,” Jeremy said. “But I just couldn’t do nothing.”
Rescuers were unable to locate Jeff’s body from the sinkhole, which had swallowed him along with his bedroom furniture. The following day, engineers determined that the house and ground were too dangerous to make further attempts at rescue. The house was eventually demolished, and the hole itself was filled with gravel. A few years later, the sinkhole opened up once more at the site, now fenced off from the public.
Florida is known for its limestone-rich soil, which makes it particularly susceptible to sinkholes. “Sinkholes are most common in what geologists call ‘karst terrain’,” explains the US Geological Survey. “These are regions where the types of rock below the land surface can naturally be dissolved by groundwater circulating through them. Soluble rocks include salt beds and domes, gypsum, limestone, and other carbonate rock.”
The dissolution of the rock below the surface can create underground caverns, which weaken the surface and cause it to collapse into a sinkhole. Sinkholes can vary in size, from very small to the massive Xiaozhai Heavenly Pit, which is thought to be the largest in the world. This sinkhole measures around 537 meters (1,762 feet) wide and 662 meters (1,667-2,172 feet) deep.
The tragic story of Jeff Bush serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of sinkholes, and the importance of taking precautions in areas that are susceptible to them. While we may not be able to prevent sinkholes from occurring, we can take steps to mitigate their impact and protect ourselves and our loved ones from harm.