Demolition continues at scene of missing Florida sinkhole victim

SEFFNER, Fla. (REUTERS) - Demolition crews resumed work on Monday at a Tampa-area home where a sinkhole opened last week underneath a bedroom, swallowing a man asleep in his bed.

Jeff Bush, 37, was declared "presumed dead" by Hillsborough County officials on Sunday as rescue workers abandoned any hope of recovering his body.

The goal on Monday was to demolish the rest of the house before efforts will begin to stabilise the sinkhole, said William Puz, a spokesman for Hillsborough County. The hole was about 9 metres wide and (18 metres deep and filled with clay and debris. It is unlikely that Bush's body will ever be retrieved, officials said.

Two nearby houses have been evacuated because the sinkhole has weakened the ground underneath them, and their residents probably will never be allowed inside again, said Jessica Damico of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

Bush, a landscaper who mowed highway medians for a living, had moved into the four-bedroom home only two months ago which he shared with his brother, Jeremy Bush, 36, and four others.

A wrecking crew on Sunday began the demolition going about its job as carefully as possible to preserve the home's contents for survivors.

Workers recovered a family Bible, flag, military medals, a purse, teddy bears and generations of photos. On Monday, they recovered two antique rifles that were family heirlooms.

Bush disappeared into the hole that opened up under his bedroom last Thursday night. The other occupants of the house, which is owned by the family of Jeremy Bush's fiancee, had been preparing for bed when they heard a loud crash and Jeff Bush screaming.

With the sinkhole expanding, engineers placed listening devices, microphones, ground-penetrating radar and other equipment testing the soil on the site to seek a safety zone to work and any sign of life below, which they never detected.

Sinkholes in Florida are caused by the state's porous geological bedrock, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. As acidic rainwater filters into the ground, it dissolves the rock, causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

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