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Site of deadly sinkhole excavated, but resident’s body may never be found

Above, a family member prayed on Monday in front of the destroyed residence of Jeff Bush of Seffner, Fla., who died after a sinkhole swallowed him and much of his bedroom Thursday.

Photos by Scott Iskowitz /Associated Press

Above, a family member prayed on Monday in front of the destroyed residence of Jeff Bush of Seffner, Fla., who died after a sinkhole swallowed him and much of his bedroom Thursday.

SEFFNER, Fla. — A backhoe chipped away Monday at the remains of a house where the earth opened up and killed a man, but there was little certainty as to what would come next for the site of the freak geological incident.

Though thousands of cave-ins occur in Florida each year, most are small, few affect homes, and even fewer cause deaths. The hole in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, however, was different.

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Crews still were working to remove enough of the home to see more clearly inside the hole and determine what steps would come after the property is razed.

There has been no definitive word as to whether the hole will be filled or whether the property could be built on again. But some officials say the fact that the disaster claimed a life — that of Jeff Bush, 37 — and that his body is expected to remain below the surface make rebuilding less likely.

‘‘It’s kind of a bad omen,’’ said Dave Arnold, a hydrogeologist who has surveyed sinkholes for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. ‘‘This is an even worse omen with someone buried under there.’’

Arnold and others expect crews will work to fill the hole and the lot will probably remain empty. Demolition of the house was completed Monday, and crews are expected to complete removal of the foundation Tuesday.

Often, homeowners find clues to a pending problem by cracks in the foundation or a shifting floor. When that happens, and a sinkhole threat has been established, crews can pump a thick grout into the ground to fill the hole. It is a costly process, though it is typically paid by insurance companies, and can save a home.

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