A dog missing for eleven days was safely reunited with her owners after heroic firefighters hoisted her from a mine.
Echo, a coonhound, had accidentally entered the disused mine system underneath Sodalis Nature Preserve, near Hannibal, Missouri, before getting lost in its intricate tunnels.
Her distraught owners had almost given up hope of seeing her again when a dog walker posted on Facebook that they thought they had spotted a dog down a mineshaft.
Kind-hearted parks and recreation worker Mary Lynne Richards decided to check it out for herself, taking her dog with her to investigate.
And after discovering that Echo was indeed at the bottom of a mineshaft now covered by a special bat gate – used to protect the endangered Indiana bats living in the mines.
After aborting her own rescue mission for safety reasons, Mary Lynne quickly called firefighters who sent a six person team to help free Echo.
They spent three hours freeing Echo.
Mary Lynne said: “Echo was very skinny and hoarse from barking for help, but in good spirits and wagging her tail when she was rescued.”
The firefighters had to use machinery to cut through the specialist bat guards – called cupola gates – covering the entrances to the mines.
After creating an an opening big enough for one of them to abseil into the mine shaft, the lowered him to the bottom.
Mary Lynne added: “They set up this great big operation. It was quite impressive.
“It was like something you would see on TV. It was pretty exciting.
“The firefighters set up a rescue tripod and lowered a firefighter with ropes about 30 feet down. The dog went straight to the firefighter!”
Echo’s owners Jeff Bates and his sones Mason and Matthew, were contacted on Facebook as the rescue mission was unfolding and quickly hurried to the scene.
They were on hand to watch as Echo was hoisted from the bottom and placed into Jeff’s arms – clearly happy to be back with her family.
Sean Hampton, Hannibal fire department chief, added: “I’m extremely proud of them (rescue team). They did a tremendous job.
“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.”