Fire crews assist in dramatic rescue of family pet

March 25, 2019

.Derrymore Woods in Bessbrook was a scene of high drama on Thursday night when two crews from the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) were tasked to help rescue a dog that was stuck in a quarry hole.

The drama unfolded shortly after 6.30pm when Rebecca and Eugene Byrne were walking their pet dog Susie through the woods.  Their regular ramble turned to horror when the one-year-old Shih Tzu ran off in chase of a rabbit and failed to respond to calls from her increasing-worried owners.  

As the couple searched for their beloved pet, other dog walkers and visitors to the woods, all keen to help, joined in the search.  However, as darkness fell and Susie had still not been found, fears for her safety were increasing.  Eugene and Rebecca felt sure that Susie had darted under a high fence that was almost hidden with overgrown brambles.  However, on learning the fence surrounded the perimeter of a disused quarry hole with a 25ft drop on the other side, they feared they had lost their precious pet.  

Alerted by the commotion, a helpful passer-by made contact with the Estate warden Rosie Mulholland who arrived with keys of the gate into the enclosure.  Her expert knowledge of the estate proved as she knew exactly how to gain access to the dangerous quarry hole – which was filled with freezing cold water and surrounded by slippery granite, overgrown bushes and trees – but she warned against entering the area owing to the danger.

Refusing to give up, Rebecca and Eugene sought help from a family friend who is a member of the NIFRS.  He quickly realized that expert assistance was needed if Susie was to stand a chance of being found without any of the search party coming to harm and he alerted his colleagues in Newry Fire Station who quickly arrived on the scene.

As Rebecca continually called out Susie’s name, at last they heard a low whimper coming from the deep quarry hole.  Using thermal imaging equipment, firefighters were able to locate the frightened animal who was trapped on a ledge around 20ft down, partially submerged in the freezing water.  Although overjoyed at finding the dog alive, the drama wasn’t over yet as the firemen decided it was too risky for them to attempt a rescue and a call went out to a Belfast-based fire crew who had a specially adapted boat that would allow them access to that area of the quarry hole.   The nerve-wracking wait continued until the second fire crew arrived and deployed an inflatable raft into the water to reach the terrified and exhausted pup, almost seven hours after her ‘adventure’ began.

Speaking to The Examiner, Rebeccca says the sense of relief when Susie was found was “overwhelming” and offering her grateful appreciation to everyone who helped in the search and rescue efforts, she said: “We are so thankful to everyone who helped us find Susie.  Those who were walking in the woods, the Fire Service, the Derramore House people, they all kept us calm when we were panicking.  People are so decent and so good and we are so, so grateful for everyone’s help,” she said.

Revealing that, miraculously, their pampered pooch survived her ordeal “without a scratch”, she added: “She is just oblivious to everything and is sitting up like the queen of the house now.”