Rescuers save the day at Pa. shelter

September 24, 2004|by DON AINES

MARION, PA. - Samantha Frey of Greener Pastures No-Kill Animal Rescue is used to saving animals, but it was a swift water rescue team from Williamsport that helped save her and some of her creatures Saturday after the remnants of Hurricane Ivan flooded her Social Island Road property.

"They were into the water up to their necks chasing horses and goats and potbellied pigs," Frey said Thursday of the efforts members of Williamsport Volunteer Ambulance Service and other volunteers put in to rescuing 40 to 50 animals that were in harm's way when the Conococheague Creek overran its banks.

"You try and get an animal that's scared ... They just flip out," Frey said.

Frey had a close call when she jumped into the creek after a goat.

"If it hadn't been for Williamsport Rescue, I would have drowned," said Frey. "I was wearing hip waders and they just filled up and sucked me down."


She was fished out of the fast-flowing water by Ray Mowen of the water rescue team; Del Mellott, a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation equipment operator; and boyfriend Tim Shoemaker, Frey said.

The arrival of the swift water rescue team was "a fluke," according to Mowen, who lives in Marion and is a career lieutenant with the ambulance service. He and Richie Smallwood, a career emergency medical technician from Martinsburg, W.Va., and Freddie Johnson, a volunteer captain from Hagerstown, had been dispatched from Williamsport earlier that morning for a water rescue in Fulton County.

Before they arrived at that incident, it came over the radio that the person they were going to rescue was out of their vehicle and safe, Mowen said. Flooded roads caused them to take some detours and they ended up on Social Island Road, he said.

"At least 10 animals were still in the water when we got there" at about 11 a.m., said Mowen, who noted that the Marion Volunteer Fire Co. was also on the scene. The three men put on their water rescue gear and started helping catch and load the animals into one of the trailers, he said.

When Frey went into the water, he said the current carried her downstream about 40 yards. "The water actually had her pinned up against a tree" along the creek bank, he said.

Friday night when the storm hit the area, the creek remained within its banks, Frey said. By about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, however, "you could just see it coming up," she said.

"We have an evacuation plan in order because we've done this before," said Frey, who has more than 200 animals, many of them saved from research labs or animal cruelty cases.

Two local farmers brought stock trailers to load the animals into, but Frey said the situation got out of hand when bystanders opened fence gates and some animals got loose.

"I had to call in more people and risk more peoples' lives," she said.

"The horse and the donkeys were a little hard to get because they were spooked and running through the water," Mowen said. They had a harder time rescuing a pig, he said.

"He was in a pen and he was keeping his head above water," Mowen said. "We had to try and get a lasso around its head and front legs."

"It had real long fangs or teeth in its lower jaw," said Mowen. "He snapped at us a couple of times."

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