It's a question Jeff Bush's family, friends and community have asked over and over: why did they leave his body in the sinkhole? Isn't there anything more they could have done to rescue or recover him?
County officials and engineers made the grim announcement in a media briefing Saturday afternoon. Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill said he could not put anyone else's life at risk in an extremely unstable situation.
Tuesday, county spokesman William Puz emailed a statement to FOX 13 saying the decisions about the sinkhole were made after consultations between county rescue, the engineering firm and county officials.
He added that there "has not been a moment to go over lessons learned to know what may be implemented in the future." He did say that, following the active scene stage, they will look at what could be done better or differently.
In the meantime, here are more excerpts and insights from the media briefing Saturday on why the county made the decision that efforts to recover Bush's body were too dangerous.
(Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill spoke first; engineers Ross McGillivray and Bill Bracken, both of whom were working with the county, filled in more details.)
MM: "With all the equipment that we brought in and specialized help we just have not been able to locate Mr. Bush…for that reason, the rescue effort is being discontinued. At this point it's really not possible to recover the body."
MM: Any further demolition can't even take place on the site, it has to be done from outside the perimeter with huge equipment that will be able to reach in and bring in whatever we can out of the house."
McG: (estimates sinkhole is 20 feet wide at the top; 30 feet wide toward the bottom, and 50 to 60 feet deep.) "It is still very columnar. It is probably 20 feet wide at the top. It most likely fills out to a little wider than that, which is what the real concern is. It makes the upper section of it unstable. The real problem with it is, it is totally within the structure, so that if there is any additional collapse, and you have someone near it , they're at risk for serious injury or death also."
Bracken: (describes what they could see the first night they were inside the home.) "We know that it has continued to lose soil and to grow. We have not gotten close enough to it to get inside of it, or to really make any conclusions. What we can tell you based on the first night is that the hole is completely contained within the footprint of the building, and there is a slab off the back of the house that extends underneath of that as well. So the hole has taken up at least one third of the house, and the interior floor slab has gone into the hole, and the walls are hanging, so it is an extremely precarious situation." (Reporter asks: "How far away will the heavy equipment have to be from the house?") Bracken: "We've identified that nothing can get closer to the house than the sidewalk."
McG: (describes sinkholes as voids deep under the surface that rise up to the point that the top layer of soil above the void collapses into it.) "Initially when you look down that hole, what you're gonna see is the soil, probably at about 20 feet or so down and then what happens is it continues to move and unravel downward because of the void that's there, so it bridges off. The mechanism is an ongoing one."
MM: (talks about initial efforts to locate Jeff Bush.) "We did lower microphones at the outset and had them there for quite some time and did not hear any sounds, any audible sounds. There was a small camera we were able to place at the opening of the hole, and we could have limited view inside, but that is as far as we were able to go."
MM: "We've done everything we believe that we can. We wish we could have done more, but given the circumstances, I couldn't put more people at risk."
Family of sinkhole victim coping with loss of great guy:
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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