Sinkhole swallows Florida man inside house

Brother of sinkhole victim talks to reporters at the scene.

TAMPA, Fla. -- A 36-year-old Florida man was feared dead on Friday after a sinkhole suddenly opened beneath the bedroom of his suburban Tampa home swallowing him, police and fire officials said.

Rescuers responded to a 911 call late on Thursday after the man's family reported hearing a loud crash in the house and rushed to his bedroom.

“All they could see was a part of a mattress sticking out of the hole,” said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue Chief Ron Rogers. “Essentially the floor of that room had opened up.”

A sheriff deputy who arrived at the scene rescued the man's brother who jumped in the sinkhole and tried to rescue him. Three other adults and a child were in the house at the time the sinkhole opened up.

"He's down there but we can't hear anything and we can't see anything," said Ronnie Rivera, a Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman. "We can't confirm anything but it's been several hours."

The victim screamed for help and his brother, Jeremy Bush, jumped in to try to save him but was unsuccessful.

Bush tried again using a shovel to dig but was pulled out by deputies as he was being sucked into the hole, Rivera said.

Bush told television reporters on scene, "I know in my heart he's dead."

About five other people reportedly lived inside the home, which has been occupied by the same family since 1974. The residents were taken to a local hotel and were given food.

Authorities have not been able to contact the missing man and ordered the evacuation of several nearby homes out of concern the sinkhole is continuing to grow.

Bill Bracken, the head of an engineering company assisting rescuers, said the sinkhole was as much as 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter and 20 feet (6 meters) deep.

“It started in the bedroom and it has been expanding outward and it's taking the house with it as it opens up,” Bracken said.

The risk of sinkholes is common in the state due to its porous geological bedrock, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said.

As rainwater filters down it dissolves the rock causing erosion that can lead to underground caverns, which cause sinkholes when they collapse.

Rogers said officials lowered listening devices and cameras into the hole but had so far not detected any signs of life.

Rescue efforts were suspended on Friday over concerns about the house's stability, Rogers said.

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