A 25-page report says officials did all they could to save Seffner man swallowed by sinkhole

SEFFNER, Fla - Amid the demolition of two Seffner homes that neighbor a deadly sinkhole, Hillsborough County officials released a 25-page report Wednesday detailing their efforts to rescue Jeff Bush who lost his life back in February.

Officials refer to the incident as the 'tragedy on Faithway Drive.' 

Bush was sleeping in his bed when a sinkhole opened up under his bedroom around 11 p.m. on February 28. Bush was buried alive.

"They put a listening device into the hole itself to try to hear any sound," explained Willie Puz, spokesperson for Hillsborough County.  "That listening device was swallowed by a second collapse."

According to the report, the depth the device finally settled to was about 30 feet below the surface. 

Officials said following a third collapse during the night, engineers determined the scene to be too unsafe without soil sampling and pulled back first responders to avoid anymore loss of life.    The results of the soil sampling, the report states, resuled in the families in the homes of 238 and 242 Faithway Drive to be evacuated.

Those families were given 30 minutes to re-enter their homes, while escorted by emergency responders, to retrieve as many personal items they wanted.

Both homes were eventually condemned after experts said the sinkhole spiders out putting the homes on unstable ground.

"We have had 12 weeks to prepare for this," said Lisa Jaudon, who showed up Wednesday to watch her home be demolished.

Jaudon lived in the home for more than two decades.

"My daughter was born about a year after we moved in there," explained Jaudon.  "That is the only house she has ever known.  She is 20 now."

SINKHOLE FORMATION

According to the final report, experts believe this deadly sinkhole formed through natural processes.  They said below the cemented clay-sand layer beneath the house about 12 to 18 feet was a fine grain sand that eroded during rain or other water events.

The hole continued to migrate upward until it reached the cemented clay-sand layer, expert explained.  As the hole couldn't migrate up any more, it then widened until it ultimately collapsed due to the weight of the soil above it., the report states.

BUILDING CODE

Experts also addressed speculation regarding the building code and whether the concrete slab located under Bush's home had been adequately reinforced.

According to the report, crews at the scene observed welded wire fabric in the pieces of slab removed.  However, it was corroded and had allowed the slab to fail and drop.

RECOVERING BUSH'S BODY

During the four days rescue crews were on scene, the Bush family watched efforts to save Jeff from a home across the street.

At times, the family also questioned whether crews were doing all they could to save Jeff.  More questions surfaced after engineers determined the ground was too unstable to even recover Jeff's body.  Jeff ultimately was buried alive and his body still remains under the area where his house once stood.  Crews also filled in the hole with gravel to stabilize the area.

Experts addressed the family's concerns once again in the final report stating, 'given the fact the listening device settled at approximately 30 feet, that would have been approximate depth (to try and excavate and retrieve).  However, another softer clay layer was found at approximately 20 to 25 feet, which, if disturbed, would not have the strength the support additional weight, and the sides could have continually fallen in and compromised the rest of the area.  The instability of the hole and its depth regrettably led to the conclusion that the body could not safely be retrieved.'

Since that decision, the site turned into a makeshift memorial.  The Bush family even held a memorial service near the property.  In the week's leading up to Wednesday's demolitions, family, friends and strangers put crosses and flowers into the fence surrounding all three impacted properties.  On the sidewalks, mourners used spray paint to write messages to Jeff.

DEMOLITION

The two homes adjacent to Bush's were leveled Wednesday because it was determined it would not be cost effective to try and repair the sinkhole hole beneath them.

"It is mixed emotions," Jaudon said of moving on from her home.

Crews expect to wrap up debris removal by Friday.  In the coming months, Puz said engineers will address the final stabilization of the site and proposed disposition of the land.

Since the date of the tragedy, 25 agencies have been involved in all the aspects of clean up, rescue, recovery, etc.

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