Dog found in sealed Sodalis mine had been missing for over a week

The long-standing image of firefighters using a ladder to retrieve a cat from a tree was shattered Monday by members of the Hannibal Fire Department, who went down a Sodalis Nature Preserve mine shaft to rescue a trapped dog.

“I’m extremely proud of them (rescue team). They did a tremendous job,” said Sean Hampton, HFD chief. “Once they got up there and their training kicked in, they did everything they needed to do. They were able to conduct it (rescue) safely.”

Quoting the dog’s owner, Jeff Bates, the coonhound named Echo had been missing for 11 days, according to Andy Dorian, director of the Hannibal Parks & Recreation Department (HPRD).

Mary Lynne Richards of the HPRD learned of the dog’s plight Monday morning through a post on Facebook.

“Someone else had posted on Facebook that they went to the mineshaft and the dog was not seen. I didn’t know if the dog had been rescued or just wasn’t there (the bottom of the shaft) anymore,” she said. “But when I got there the dog it was obviously still right there.”

Richards met Dorian and Aron Lee, assistant HPRD director, at the site, which according to Dorian is in a “remote location” of the preserve, near Robinson Cemetery.

“We were trying to figure out how to get the dog out,” recalled Richards. “That’s when Andy called the fire department.”

“The fire department was there in the blink of an eye,” reported Dorian to the city council during its meeting Tuesday night.

“After Andy explained what he had, the crews were able to dispatch the proper equipment,” said Hampton. “They had a pretty decent hike back in there. For a rescue like this there is quite a bit of equipment that you need. Once they got back in there luckily they had everything they needed.”

With Jeff Bates and his sons, Mason and Matthew, looking on, Echo was retrieved by a firefighter who repelled down the steep shaft to reach the animal.

“They set up this great big operation. It was quite impressive,” said Richards. “It was like something you would see on TV. It was pretty exciting.”

“The dog was free in less than three hours,” said Dorian.

Hampton, whose firefighters became familiar with the Sodalis mine system after the city acquired the property a little over two years ago, was not surprised to be summoned to the park.

“Our concern and fear all along was that a child would get in there, get turned around and get lost,” he said. “We never anticipated having an animal to retrieve.”

Animal rescue calls are the exception, rather that the rule for the HFD, according to Hampton.

“It’s pretty much a rarity,” he said. “From time to time we get a call about an animal that’s pinned in somewhere. Most of the time the animal will find a way out of what they got themselves into.”

How Echo wound up inside the shaft remains a mystery.

“The Bates family lives near one of the other (mine) openings so the dog could’ve gotten into another opening and made its way through the mine passages, come to that one and then couldn’t get out,” said Richards. “However, it could’ve slid down. There are some openings where it could’ve slid through.”

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