Painful memories remain for Jeff Bush's family, one year after Seffner sinkhole took his life

8:21 PM, Feb 27, 2014   |    comments
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Video: Painful memories remain, year after deadly Seffner sinkhole

Flowers are placed before a fenced-off lot of land that was once the home where Jeff Bush was killed after a sinkhole opened up beneath the house.


Seffner, Florida -- Flowers placed before a chain link fence mark what was once Janell Wicker Wheeler's family home. It's where her nephew Jeff Bush lost his life on the night of February 28, 2013 when a giant sinkhole opened up in an instant underneath the Seffner house.

On the eve of the one-year anniversary of Bush's death, his aunt, Jannell Wicker Wheeler, returned to the tragic site.

GRAPHIC: Florida's Sinkholes (PDF)

"We had [celebrated] birthdays, Christmases... all holidays. We had 'just because days' and now we don't have that," she reflects. "That was the Wicker Wheeler family home, and now it is gone. It is sad. I want to go home... and I can't."

One year ago, the house was still standing, and it on the outside, it appeared as if nothing had happened. But caution tape kept the family and eventually even emergency crews back from the scene, which was behind the home's walls, and underground.

Jeff Bush was swallowed by a sinkhole when the floor collapsed underneath his bed as he slept.

"I did not see him. [I] heard him, just screaming for help. And there was nothing... couldn't get to him."

His body was never found. She says the tragedy is unforgettable. 

"I don't sleep well. It's something that I can't get out of my mind. There is not a day that goes by when you want to talk to everybody, tell them you love them. Be there for everybody."

The home has since been demolished and the sinkhole filled. There is a makeshift memorial in place, but the county has plans for landscaping, as well as a new fence and memorial. Officials say a final vote won't happen on that until Hillsborough County gets ownership of the land

On Thursday, Jannell Wicker Wheeler declined to comment on the proposal.

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