The sinkhole in Florida that killed a man in 2013 has reopened, harmless this time

The sinkhole in Florida that fatally swallowed a man sleeping in his own home in 2013 has reopened for the third time, only now it is behind a mesh fence and does not harm either people or property.

Hillsborough County officials said the sinkhole, located in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, reappeared on Monday, which they say is not unusual for such underground formations, especially in central Florida with its porous limestone base. The hole was about 19 feet (6 meters) wide at its largest point.

“None of the homes surrounding this site appear to be in danger,” said John-Paul Lavandeira, director of the county’s department of code enforcement. “It’s not uncommon, what we’re seeing here.”

Ten years ago, 37-year-old Jeff Bush was sleeping in his bedroom when the ground opened up and swallowed him and part of the house. Five other people were not hurt, but Bush’s brother, Jeremy, tried in vain to pull him out of the pit. The body of Jeff Bush has never been found.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my brother,” Jeremy Bush told WTSP-TV. This is the only place where I can visit him.

After the Bush home was demolished, county officials installed a pair of fences around the site to prevent further injury. The funnel reopened in 2015 and was filled with water and gravel, Lavandeira said at a press conference on Tuesday. It will be done again.

“If there is a repetition, then it is in the controlled zone. It will stay there,” he said.

Sinks are as much a part of the Florida landscape as sandy beaches, alligators, and real estate developers. Florida has more sinkholes than any other state in the country, largely because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks, such as limestone, that store and help move groundwater.

When the dirt, clay, or sand from above becomes too heavy for a limestone roof, it can collapse and form a sinkhole. Sinks occur naturally, but they can be caused by external events such as rain or pumping of groundwater used to irrigate crops. Central Florida is the epicenter of sinkholes, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The state Insurance Regulatory Administration said that Florida flops claims cost insurers $1.4 billion from 2006 to 2010.

Most craters are small and affect things like parking lots and roads. But some are quite large, like one near Orlando that grew to 400 feet (121 meters) in 1981 and swallowed up five cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

It is likely that the Seffner funnel will reopen in the future, Lavandeira said.

“This is Mother Nature. This is not a man-made phenomenon,” he said.

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