The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 4, 2013

House, debris over Fla. sinkhole to be removed

(Continued)

Wanda Carter, the daughter of Leland Wicker, cradled the large family Bible in her arms. She said her mother and father had stored baptism certificates, cards and photos between the pages of that Bible over the years.

"It means that God is still in control, and He knew we needed this for closure," she said, crying.

Carter said she spent from age 11 to 20 in the home, and she had to close her eyes as the home was knocked down.

"Thank you for all of the memories and life it gave us," she said.

The Rev. John Martin Bell of Shoals Baptist Church said he had been with the family all morning. "We just prayed with them," he said. He added that all five who lived in the house — Bush, Wicker, Hannah and two others ages 50 and 45 — were in need of support and prayers from the community.

Several generations of family members lived in the home at the time of the ground collapse, including Jeff Bush, the man now presumed dead.

Jeremy Bush tried to save his brother by jumping into the sinking dirt hole. He had to be pulled out of the still-shifting hole by a Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy, who was visibly shaken when talking about the incident more than a day later.

"I've never seen anything move so fast and do so much destruction," Deputy Douglas Duvall said.

The search for Jeff Bush, 37, was called off Saturday. He was in his bedroom Thursday night in Seffner — a suburb of 8,000 people 15 miles east of downtown Tampa — when the ground opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five others in the house at the time escape unharmed as the earth crumbled.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is conducting the investigation. Detective Larry McKinnon said the sheriff's office and the county medical examiner cannot declare Bush dead if his body is still missing. Under Florida law, Bush's family must petition a court to declare him deceased.

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