Seffner, Florida — One week after a sinkhole opened in Seffner killing Jeffrey Bush, 37, his brother Jeremy is expressing gratitude and frustration.
The emergency vehicles have left. The crowds have diminished. But the pain and frustration felt by the Bush and Wicker families has not.
“Not knowing what’s gonna happen to him or anything like that – it’s hard,” said Jeremy, who tried in vain to save his brother as he slipped deeper into the hole.
Kneeling in prayer at the site of what is now his brother’s grave, Jeremy said it’s difficult to believe a week has passed.
“Trying to stay strong for my family,” he says, holding back tears.
Jeremy finds himself driving past the property several times a day. He is still — perhaps will always be — haunted by the image of his brother’s struggle to escape the deepening ditch.
It’s a nightmare, apparently shared by Hillsborough County Deputy Doug Duvall who was first one the scene. Duvall was back out there again on Thursday, says Jeremy.
He saw him and told Deputy Duvall, “I love you. Thank you for everything. Thank you for saving my life and you are a hero.”
Bush says he’s grateful for the steady stream of people who’ve stopped to offer their sympathy and pay their respects. They include Cornell Burroughs and his family, who saw the tragedy unfold from their home in California. On Friday they were in town visiting family in Valrico, and decided to come by.
“Said the Lord’s Prayer, just held hands and you know, and prayed for the family,” said Burroughs.
The fence that surrounds the property is now dotted with flowers, balloons and a cross in Jeff’s memory. The ground itself, say officials, may still be too unstable to walk on safely.
Jeremy hopes one day his family may be able to put a park here with a marker for Jeff… a place for their mother to come.
“She just wants to be able to sit down somewhere and visit with him and everything,” he says.
In the meantime, the Bush and Wicker families struggle with the tragedy emotionally and financially.
Jeremy says they’re frustrated by a lack of updates. And there’s still a gnawing feeling, Jeremy admits, that somehow – something more could have been done to save his brother.
“They had all that heavy equipment out there. They couldn’t run a ladder over the top of the house break a hole through the roof and lower someone down there and see if they could do anything?” he said.
“There’s plenty of scenarios of what they could have done. I understand the situation. But it’s hard knowing nobody tried, really.”
County officials say the decision to pull back was a heart-wrenching call that was ultimately made by County Administrator Michael Merrill, who had received input from three separate engineering groups at the scene.
The Bush and Wicker families have been receiving assistance from the public, Hillsborough County, and the Red Cross.
Jeremy says his employer, Pizza Hut, is also planning to collect donations beginning sometime next week.