2019 Avalanche News
Dog survives 40-foot fall into Avalanche Mote
A hikers dog fell into a mote above a bridge formed by avalanche debris and survived and was rescued. The rescue team saved the dog despite a continuing avalanche risk at the time in order to preclude any informal attempt by unqualified or untrained people.
February 5, 2019 11:52 am
SPANISH FORK — A Utah woman was reunited with her dog Saturday after it fell in a 40-foot hole at Stewart Falls on the east side of Mount Timpanogos in Utah County.
Yichu Su and her 4-year-old husky-pit bull mix were hiking west of Sundance in when Beeroo fell into a small opening next to a cliff after an avalanche in the area deposited 40 feet of snow at the base of the falls.
According to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office in Spanish Fork, when snow is deposited, either from an avalanche, as in this case, or simply from falling in a storm, it can create large, cavernous openings underneath the surface as the snow melts. In this case, the waterfalls accelerated the process and created a large cavern under the surface of the avalanche.
“I’m watching the dog while they’re talking,” James Bobb, a hiker who witnessed the fall, said Monday during a press conference. “He walks up, comes back down and falls — and he was gone. I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ Your heart really falls out. I just yelled, ‘Your dog just fell in a hole!’”
Su said Monday she experienced a roller coaster of emotions while she waited for help to arrive up Provo Canyon.
“I know it’s very irrational, but I just couldn’t believe he just (fell) in that hole,” she said.
A search and rescue team member used a shovel and dug a hole in the top of the snow a short distance below where the dog fell in. Through that hole the team saw Beeroo was alive. A member of the team was then able to safely rappel into the cavern where he found Beeroo curled up to one side. After securing Beeroo in a harness, he and his rescuer were raised to the surface.
It took seven hours get Beeroo out, but hikers on the trail stayed by Su’s side for hours to reassure her.
“It’s amazing. It’s like, you don’t know those people and they just stand by there and comfort you and just say 'no worries' and 'your dog is still alive,’” said Su.
The reunion was captured on video, and it's clear Beeroo and Su were thrilled to be reunited.
“I can’t believe he’s still alive,” said Su.
“I didn’t even know these guys. We all got so close. It felt like he was my dog. I feel like everyone had the same attitude,” Matt Mendonsa, another hiker who waited with Su, said Monday.
“Obviously dogs are loved family members, but all too often we do calls like this that don’t end up as happily as this one did,” said Brett Johnson, one of the search and rescue volunteers who risked his life to save the dog.
Beeroo and Su are both familiar with the popular Steward Falls Trail hike in the summer, but not the winter.
The takeaway of Beeroo’s happily ever after: Even one wrong step in winter conditions, for a dog or human, can be deadly.
“You see a lot of things,” Johnson said, tearing up, “and it’s good to see them end happily.”
“You just don’t believe there are so many nice people around you. I would say Utah is the best. Thank you,” said Su.
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