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Bartow family fears their home is being swallowed by a sinkhole

7:49 PM, Aug 6, 2013   |    comments
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Bartow, Florida -- A Bartow family lives in fear that their home is sinking into the ground.

James Dean Williams, his wife Heather and their two-year-old son Jacob have lived in their home in the 1400 block of Gordon Avenue for 10 years, and over the last two, have been watching their home crack and split beneath them.

PHOTOS: Family fears Bartow home is on sinkhole

"I live in fear for my family every minute," said James. "I pace the house when I'm home, worried about how we would get out if the house started to fall into the ground."

It started with cracks in the walls and when James went to Lowe's he was told to fill the cracks. Days after that, they split again and he could see where his walls were falling into the ground. 

"Our porch has caved in; we hear booming sounds inside the home, under the ground. The house has tremors," he describes.

Williams filed a claim with his insurance company, Universal Property Casualty, who came out and tested the ground.

"I noticed a newer, indented area while they were here, and I said 'that wasn't there a few days ago', and they said, 'that is probably your imagination!' I said, 'That is my imagination?' And they wouldn't respond after that!"

James then hired an attorney who had a company called Basic Engineering come out to test the ground. Those test results will be back in one month.

"I'm terrified. I'm just scared that what happened to the guy in Seffner, is going to happen to me, or my wife, or son," he said.

Ever since Jeffrey Bush's death back in March, local attorneys, like John Byrne who has had hundreds and hundreds of sinkhole cases, told 10 News their phones have been busy with concerned homeowners observing every crack. 

They said some soil movement can cause severe damage to a home that's like sinkhole damage but is not. Then, the problem is insurance companies don't cover any soil movement damage unless the test results show eroding limestone.

SINKHOLE DATABASE: Look up your county
See Also: Florida Sinkhole map provided by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Geological Survey (PDF)

10 News contacted several sinkhole experts, like Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole specialist who came out to Williams' home a few weeks ago.

He said the damage there was on the verge of a catastrophic collapse. He said he was disappointed in the insurance company for not doing the right thing and helping the Williams family.

He agreed the Williams' home sounded like a sinkhole problem; however, he also said they would not be able to confirm it's a sinkhole until the ground was tested for that eroding lime rock. 

10 News called Universal Property Casualty but they did not return our calls. We checked the BBB record of that insurance company's credibility; they are rated at an F.

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