A large sinkhole opened under the bedroom of a house near Tampa, trapping a 36-year-old man in the rubble.
The home collapsed late Thursday in a Seffner neighborhood. By early Friday, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue officials determined the home had become too unstable to continue rescue efforts.
“Right now, the potential for a collapse is very, very high,” Jessica Damico, a Hillsborough Fire and Rescue spokeswoman told MyFoxTampaBay.com.
“There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up,” Damico said.
There’s been no contact with the man since then and neighbors on both sides of the Seffner home have been evacuated.
“We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn’t see anything compatible with life,” Damico said. But Damico would not say that the man is presumed dead.
Damico said that at the surface, she estimates the sinkhole is about 30 feet across but officials say the sinkhole spreads to about 100 feet across below the surface.
Officials told MyFoxTampaBay.com that rescuers tried to send a camera and listening device into the hole but it was swallowed up.
A total of five adults, one child and two dogs were in the home.
Damico says Bracken Engineering officials determined the home’s bedroom is the center of the sinkhole.
Engineering officials will return later Friday morning with more sophisticated monitoring equipment to determine the actual diameter and depth of the sinkhole.
Tampa TV station WFTS reports the man’s brother tried to pull him from the sinkhole. An arriving deputy was able to pull the brother from the still collapsing sinkhole.
Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times she was inside the house when the sinkhole opened.
“It sounded like a car hit my house,” she said.
It was dark. She remembered screams and one of her nephews rushing to rescue his brother, trapped in the debris.
Wheeler’s house was condemned. The rest of the family went to a hotel but she stayed behind with her dog, sleeping in her car.
“I just want my nephew,” she said through tears.
The state of Florida has the most sinkholes in the United States.
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