STREET. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Florida sinkhole that fatally swallowed a man sleeping in his own home in 2013 has reopened for a third time, only now it’s behind a chain-link fence and harming no one or property. .
Hillsborough County officials said the sinkhole located in the Tampa suburb of Seffner appeared again Monday, which they said is not unusual for such underground formations, especially in central Florida with its porous limestone base. The hole was about 19 feet wide at its largest point.
“None of the houses surrounding this appear to be in danger,” said Jon-Paul Lavandeira, director of the county’s code enforcement department. «This is not weird, what we’re seeing here.»
A decade ago, Jeff Bush, 37, was sleeping in a bedroom when the earth opened up and swallowed him and part of the house. Five other people escaped unharmed, and Bush’s brother Jeremy tried in vain to pull him out of the hole. Jeff Bush’s body has never been found.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my brother,” Jeremy Bush told WTSP-TV. «This is the only place I have to visit.»
After the Bush home was demolished, county officials erected a couple of fences around the lot to prevent further injury. The sump reopened in 2015 and was filled with a mixture of water and gravel, Lavandeira said at a news conference on Tuesday. That will be done again.
“If there is a recidivism, it is in a controlled area. It’s going to stay there,” she said.
Sinkholes are as much a part of the Florida landscape as sandy beaches, alligators, and developers. Florida has more sinkholes than any state in the nationmainly because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks like limestone that store and help move groundwater.
When the dirt, clay, or sand on top becomes too heavy for the limestone roof, it can collapse and form a sinkhole. Sinkholes are naturally caused, but can be triggered by external events such as rain, or by pumping groundwater used to irrigate crops. Central Florida is ground zero for sinkholes, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The state’s Office of Insurance Regulation said sinkhole claims in Florida cost insurers $1.4 billion between 2006 and 2010.
Most sinkholes are small and affect things like parking lots and roads. But some are pretty big, like one near Orlando that grew to 400 feet wide in 1981 and swallowed five cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.
It is very likely that the Seffner sinkhole will reopen in the future, Lavandeira said.
“This is Mother Nature. This is not a man-made event,” he said.