“You never know underneath the ground what’s happening,” added Elbairis Gonzalez, 30.
Experts say thousands of sinkholes form yearly in Florida because of the state’s unique geography, though most are small and deaths rarely occur.
“There’s hardly a place in Florida that’s immune to sinkholes,” said Sandy Nettles, who owns a geology consulting company in the Tampa area. “There’s no way of ever predicting where a sinkhole is going to occur.”
Most sinkholes are small, like one found Saturday morning in Largo, 35 miles away from Seffner. The Largo sinkhole, about 10 feet long and several feet wide, is in a mall parking lot.
The state sits on limestone, a porous rock that easily dissolves in water, with a layer of clay on top. The clay is thicker in some locations — including the area where Bush became a victim — making them even more prone to sinkholes.
Jonathan Arthur, the state geologist and director of the Florida Geological Survey, said other states sit atop limestone in a similar way, but Florida has additional factors like extreme weather, development, aquifer pumping and construction. “The conditions under which a sinkhole will form can be very rapid, or they can form slowly over time,” he said.
But it remained unclear Saturday what, if anything, caused the Seffner sinkhole.
“The condition that caused that sinkhole could have started a million years ago,” Nettles said.
Jeremy Bush, who tried to rescue his brother, lay flowers and a stuffed lamb near the house Saturday morning and wept.
He said someone came to his home a couple of months ago to check for sinkholes and other issues, apparently for insurance purposes, but found nothing wrong. State law requires home insurers to provide coverage against sinkholes.
“And a couple of months later, my brother dies. In a sinkhole,” Bush said Friday.