Kulpmont couple is grateful for rescuers who saved dog from 150-foot hole
KULPMONT - A bark rising from some 150 feet down a mine shaft had John Sedor in a panic.
His English Springer Spaniel named Sophie had fallen into the hole nearly as deep as the Statue of Liberty is tall.
John feared the worst, but thanks to local emergency responders who conducted a rope rescue, Sophie is home for Thanksgiving, for which John and his wife, Lori, couldn't be more thankful.
"You would think that these guys were after somebody's son or daughter or dad. They were consummate professionals," John said Monday during an interview at the Sedors Kulpmont home.
Over and over, John cited the bravery, professionalism and humility of the men who helped rescue Sophie. He knows they don't want attention for their work - as is the case with most emergency responders - but believes their efforts two weeks ago should not go unnoticed.
Asked what he would tell the men if he could meet them again, he said, "What could you tell them? You go over, give them a big hug, shake their hand, (and say) 'You want a beer? Thank you. Thank you so much.' "
Sophie had given chase after a deer while walking with John and her brother, Moose, in the woods between Marion Heights and Natalie on Nov. 9.
The trio usually hike around Centralia, but John had been looking for a place closer to home. He thought he found it, having hiked the woods near Marion Heights three times prior with his dogs.
When Sophie took off, he thought little of it. Fifteen minutes passed before John got worried. He and Moose backtracked.
"I come across this big hole and I'm thinking, 'Oh, please, God, please,' and I'm calling, 'Sophie,' and I hear her bark from the bottom of this hole," John said. "It was just stomach churning. I didn't know what to think."
He used a cell phone to call for help, reaching out to friends, who shared with him phone numbers of others they thought could help. As he received more contact numbers, he etched the names and numbers onto a rock. Friends began to show up, including a neighbor who drove Moose home while the rescue unfolded.
Day turns to dark
One person reached was Troy Wolfgang, a mine safety official with the state Department of Environmental Protection. He contacted Steve Jeffery, Northumberland County director of emergency management, who reached out to emergency management's Jason Zimmerman, a member of Shamokin Emergency and Rescue Squad.
From there, Mike Timco of Coal Township Rescue Squad, Scott Schleig of Shamokin Rescue and two members of Mount Carmel Rescue Squad, Clayton Hubler and Corey Kent, along with Russ Feese, chief of Coal Township Fire Department, were all reached, and all responded to the scene.
Troy's brother, Scott, also played a role in saving Sophie.
John said a family friend, Justin Bates, used his knowledge of the woods to lead the rescuers to the mine hole.
The ordeal began about 4:30 p.m. and by the time the rescuers were mobilized, it was after 7 p.m. and day had turned to dark.
The hole was as dark as it was deep, and dangerously steep. Even with powerful lights lowered by rope into the hole, only the reflection from Sophie's eyes shone. It was clear she was moving around, and John was thankful there wasn't any water at the bottom.
"I've never seen anything like this and I'm out in the bush all the time," he said of the size of the hole.
The hole was blasted out through solid rock. Since there was no gangway, no tipple and nothing else to suggest men had once worked in the hole, John guessed it had been created to as a mine air hole. It appears to be growing larger year by year as the surface crumbles.
'The easy job'
After arriving, the rescuers gathered their gear, and Kent volunteered to go into the hole.
At 6 feet, 5 inches and 300 pounds, Kent's size didn't exactly make it a breeze to pull him to the surface after having repelled down the hole.
"I had the easy job. I had to go down in the hole. They had to pull me up out," Kent said by telephone during an admittedly reluctant interview, saying he doesn't volunteer for recognition of service.
Kent had been involved in a rope rescue in August at Blaschak Coal Co.-owned land.
For Zimmerman, such a rescue was his first. "It's something you don't do every day," he said.
The depth of the hole was between 120 feet and 150 feet, Kent estimated, and perhaps deeper since sticks and leaves covering the bottom could potentially have covered an even deeper opening.
Sophie at ease
John had given Kent his coat in the event Sophie was scared and wouldn't come to him, hoping the scent would ease her nerves. Apparently Sophie was as eager to get out of the hole as her owner was to have her back, and she walked right up to Kent wagging her tail.
He put Sophie in a harness, strapped her to him and put her in his arms.
At the surface, Zimmerman explained, rescuers used a 4-by-1 mechanical advantage - a haul system - to pull Kent up, with the front of a pickup truck used as an anchor and four men tugging on ropes.
"And that last (pull) he came up over the side and you could see the dog and the dog came up and started to lick my face," John recalled.
At about 8 p.m., three-and-a-half hours after Sophie fell into the mine hole and about 5 minutes after Kent had dropped into the shaft, she was rescued.
The rescuers hustled John and Sophie out of the woods, and they returned to Lori and Moose, with the excited dogs greeting each other with dog kisses.
One tough dog
Sophie was limping a bit, but other than some damage to her front left leg and bumps and bruises, she was just fine. The next day she was taken to see a veterinarian with whom, coincidentally, she already had a scheduled visit.
"This dog is the toughest dog you'll probably ever see. I don't know how she could fall that far, and she didn't even come up with a broken leg," John said.
"Moose would have been crying," Lori said.
The Sedors said both dogs would get some extra turkey and attention today.
Friday, they celebrate their third birthdays.
John said he shared the experience to not only pay recognition to the rescuers and others who helped him, but also as a warning to people who may hike or ride off-road vehicles in that area.
He and the dogs are on temporary leave from hiking the woods, Lori said, but they'll return - just not to the area where Sophie had her accident.
"I'll go back up to Centralia where I belong," John said.