Kirby, a springer spaniel who just graduated rescue training last week, put his new skills to the test on Monday when he located a man buried under the rubble of three-storey home that exploded because of a gas leak.
The home in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex was demolished in a gas blast in the middle of the night. Fortunately, none of the six ooccupants in the home were killed in the blast, not even the pet hamster, which was retrieved in his cage.
Clarel Sainte-Marie, 37, said: "I woke without a ceiling – I thought a plane had crashed into my home. I rushed the family out of the back and we escaped on to the roof." His wife Laura Sainte Marie, who is eight months pregnant, said her family is fortunate to be alive. She recounted that she was asleep with her family in the third-floor flat and she become trapped under a concrete block. "It was very painful and I was just shouting. I was panicking but my husband came and rescued me after making sure the kids were okay. As he lifted the concrete block which was stuck on my leg flames shot up from downstairs." She added: "I was so scared - it was an awful experience and we just feel lucky to be alive."
Her husband agreed: "We were very lucky. We have lost everything . . . but the main thing is that everyone is safe. My wife is being monitored but luckily she and the baby are well."
When firefighters arrived and were unable to locate upstairs neighbor, Kersley Vythilinghum, 30, they called in Kirby. The rescue dog sniffed out Kersley within a minute.
Dog handler Graham Currie said: "Kirby did amazingly — he saved a man's life." He added: "Kirby only qualified as a search and rescue dog last Thursday...It took him less than a minute to locate the man in the rubble and we were then able to speak to him to confirm his location. We then got a specialist camera into the rubble to visually confirm where the man was and ascertain the condition he was in and his position in the rubble."
It then took firefighters two hours to carefully remove the rubble and bricks to free Kersley. Amazingly, the man remained conscious throughout his ordeal and escaped without serious injury.
Clarel Sainte-Marie said he had spoken to Vythilingum, who is a care worker, and said: "He has some broken bones but doctors say he’ll be okay." The occupant of the property's ground-floor flat, Andree Massey, 80, also remains in hospital and is expected to recover.