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Tampa deputy honored for lifesaving measures as sinkhole swallows man in home

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Perhaps bordering on the surreal nature of law enforcement experiences, Deputy Sheriff Douglas Duvall, a member of the Hillsborough County, Fla., sheriff's office, was the first one to arrive on scene in Seffner, Fla., on February 28, 2013 at approximately 11 p.m. Deputy Duvall responded to a frantic 9-1-1 caller who stated her house was collapsing and that her brother had fallen into a massive sinkhole.

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Deputy Duvall utilized his prior seven years' military experience, assessed the bizarre scene, and sought to save the lives of the home's residents. As the residual flooring of the house splintered and slid into the ever-widening gaping sinkhole, Deputy Duvall vacated the home and took matters into his own hands. Realizing one household resident was swallowed by the sinkhole's gaping width and increasing depth, Deputy Duvall directed his attention to the brother of the first victim, feared dead at that moment.

The most imperative matter was to save the life of the victim's brother who faced similar peril. Duvall risked his own life by kneeling down on the swiftly-eroding floor, extended his hand to a would-be second victim, and pulled him from the brink of certain death.

As Deputy Duvall described it, he felt as if he were balancing on a diving board, the home's flooring flexing beneath his body weight as he meticulously forged lifesaving measures.

For his courageous and heroic acts on that fateful night in February, Deputy Duvall was bestowed by Florida Governor Rick Scott with the state's Medal of Heroism.

No stranger to awards ceremonies, Deputy Duvall has an ever-growing collection of medals. Commencing in his years with the U.S. Army, Duvall garnered a Purple Heart after having been under fire in Baghdad, bombarded by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). Duvall has seen death serving in the military; the aforementioned RPG strike not only tore away pieces of his triceps, it also killed the driver of the military vehicle atop which Duvall was manning the gun.

Serving as a military policeman (MP) while in the U.S. Army from 2000-2007, Duvall returned stateside and joined the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office (HCSO), the same year he concluded military service. It seemed a natural progression, from military cop to county deputy, still serving the American people.

Locally, the Community Service Award was conferred upon Duvall by the Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.

Duvall was also recognized as the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy and the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Hillsborough County Bar Association.

Although Deputy Duvall was unable to save the life of Jeff Bush, whose body was never found and is presumed buried in the earth, he was able to save that victim's brother, Jeremy Bush, from a direct confrontation with death.

Still today, Deputy Duvall and Jeremy Bush remain in-touch, as is the case with the entire Bush family.

Deputy Duvall humbly and reservedly walked up to the podium to greet Florida Governor Rick Scott who draped Florida's Medal of Heroism around the neck of his HCSO formal dress uniform.

Amid myriad photographers and journalists recording the moment, Deputy Duvall's wife and three children were invited to partake in the ceremony, on stage at Florida's Cabinet Room in the Florida Capitol Building in Tallahassee.

A definitive hero was honored.

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