Deputy recalls the earth "growling" on anniversary of Seffner Sinkhole death

8:07 PM, Feb 28, 2014   |    comments
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Seffner, Florida -- These days we are more sensitive about sinkholes than in years past, because of a terrifying incident that occurred one year ago today.

That's when the earth opened up under a home in Seffner, swallowing a man by the name of Jeff Bush.

The homes are gone. The property is leveled and fenced.

It's Jeff Bush's final resting place.

Tonight his family and friends gathered for a vigil in Jeff's memory. Children put flowers on a headstone outside the chainlink fence and relatives near it.

Among those who came to the vigil is the deputy who risked his own life trying to save Jeff. Doug Duvall was able to save Jeff's brother Jeremy, who had jumped into the hole after his brother, and was seconds away from becoming the Earth's second victim.

"I looked down there was a family member inside the hole trying to get the victim out," Duvall said that night, clearly still in shock from what he had witnessed.

He still second-guesses it.

"If the timing had been different. Maybe if by chance I would have been right here when it came out maybe the circumstances would have been a little bit different," he says now.

See also: Jeremy Bush recalls trying to save brother from sinkhole

Today, Duvall still comforts the Bush family and they've become friends. Duvall says the images from that night that still haunt him.

"That first initial look when I walked to that back bedroom and taking in what I saw," he says, is the one that sticks with him. He could hear the ground "growling" he says. Like an earthquake.

Duvall says he drives by the empty lot just about every night he's on duty.

"I always stop and shine my light - 'cause I work at night," he said, "and you can see where the hole is, it's still sinking."

In November, Governor Rick Scott awarded Deputy Duvall the Medal of heroism for his selfless acts.

GRAPHIC: Florida's Sinkholes (PDF)

And now, with a full year to reflect on his actions?

"I would have done it again. I still will," he says.

There is still some question about what will become of the property.

Recently, Hillsborough County put off a decision to pick up the taxes and place a permanent marker here.

The family says today is not the day to debate that.

They simply want to remember their lost loved one. Even if it still has to be from the other side of chainlink fence.

More sinkhole stories:

Seffner SinkholeMan tells tale of rushing to save brother from sinkhole

SINKHOLE DATABASE: Look up your county

Karst Map: What it looks like underground in Florida

Sinkhole Map: Florida Sinkhole map provided by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Geological Survey (PDF)

More Pictures: Demolition begins of sinkhole-home

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