Sinkhole Concerns: Damage develops slowly, homeowners often overlook common signs

by Michael Mosher on March 5, 2013

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. – A fear of sinkholes continues to ripple through Tampa Bay after a massive sinkhole opened under a Seffner home last week, sucking a man deep into the ground.

Since Jeff Bush’s tragic and shocking death Thursday night, residents around his community and throughout Tampa Bay continue to question how a sinkhole could have caused such destruction.

Homeowners want to know how to keep it from happening to their families.

“It doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it can be devastating like it was to that family,” explained Jaime Wester.

Wester owns Champion Foundation Repair in Tampa. The business has quadrupled its requests for sinkhole inspections and repairs in just a few days.

“They’re worried,” Wester said. “People are worried about their safety and they’re worried the same thing might happen to them.”

It’s a legitimate fear according to data released to ABC Action News by CoreLogic.

The analysis company counted 16 sinkholes within just 1 mile of the Seffner property and more than 15,000 across the state, many concentrated in Tampa Bay.

“Here’s one for example,” Dave Haney said, pointing to a crack in his pool deck.

Haney moved to Spring Hill about 8 years go and never thought about sinkholes, until he heard rumors his neighbors were dealing with the problem.

Slowly, he began noticing cracks in the walls of this home, so he called Champion. An engineer found several pockets of sinkhole type caverns.

Haney made the same error most homeowners overlook. He didn’t pay close attention to cracks and other foundation separations, and because damage develops overtime, it almost went unnoticed. If not for the neighborhood issue, it’s possible Haney never would have noticed, either.

His insurance company paid for the job to repair it, which will cost $200,000 and involve 50 truckloads of cement. Then, they dropped him, and he couldn’t find anyone else willing to insure his home other than Lloyd’s of London.

Still, in light of what happened in Seffner, Haney’s glad he fixed the problem, even if it ruined his homeowner’s insurance.

“A house is destroyed. A life is lost. You don’t think it’s going to go that far, but who would?” he said.

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