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Florida man swallowed by large, sudden sinkhole


BRANDON, Florida — A Florida man screamed for help and disappeared as a large sinkhole opened under the bedroom of a house, his brother said Friday.

The brother told rescue crews he heard a loud crash near midnight Thursday, then heard his brother screaming.

“When he got there, there was no bedroom left,” Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Jessica Damico said. “There was no furniture. All he saw was a piece of the mattress sticking up.”

The brother called police and frantically tried to help. An arriving deputy pulled him from the still-collapsing house.

There’s been no contact with the man since then, and neighbors on both sides of the home have been evacuated.

“We put engineering equipment into the sinkhole and didn’t see anything compatible with life,” Damico said. But Damico would not say that the man is presumed dead.

Damico estimated that the sinkhole was about 30 feet (9 meters) across.

“The entire house is on the sinkhole,” Damico said.

Janell Wheeler told the Tampa Bay Times newspaper she was inside the house with four other adults and a child when the sinkhole opened.

“It sounded like a car hit my house,” she said.

Wheeler’s house was condemned. The rest of the family went to a hotel but she stayed behind, sleeping in her car.

“I just want my nephew,” she said through tears.


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