Helicopter Crew Saves Man and Dog on Verge of 300-Foot Drop

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Bubba can wag his tail now, but a summer hike just a few weeks ago almost ended in disaster.

Bubba and owner Dave Sentonil found themselves on the edge of a 300-foot drop down into a canyon Aug. 8 after Bubba scampered away during a walk on Mt. Wilson. The dog slid about 80 feet down an embankment on a trail in the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

Sentonil ran after him, and the two ended up stranded on the embankment.

Members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Enforcement Bureau responded to a 911 call from the mountainside. Sentonil and Bubba were too far down the embankment for rescuers on the ground to reach them, so a team in a helicopter hoisted them to safety.

"These guys came to my rescue -- and, thank God, everything went very smoothly," Sentonil said at a Friday news conference where he was reunited with rescuers. "And I thank these guys for everything.

"It was really irresponsible of me not to have him on the leash, but he was right on the edge and it happened to crumble a little bit and it just broke and he started to fall and slide down."

Bubba also attended the news conference, wagging his tail appreciatively as members of the rescue team scratched and petted his brown and white spotted coat.

The operation required precision, LASD Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

"With no time to waste, (deputies ) quickly devised a tactical rescue plan," Villanueva said. "The plan consisted of positioning the helicopter in a hover near the cliff face without allowing the rotor blades from colliding with the side of the cliff, and preventing the helicopter rotor downwash from blowing Mr. Santonil and Bubba off the precipice."

Videos showed Bubba and Sentonil hoisted up and pulled into the helicopter with the rugged and steep cliff in the background.

The rescue was one of the most difficult encountered by the Special Enforcement Bureau, and involved a hoist operation of about 175 feet, authorities said. A deputy was lowered to the stranded pair, and he secured himself to a tree, Villanueva said. He then lowered himself just as a small patch of loose soil supporting their weight began to give way, Villanueva said.

"This is kind of like one of those Hollywood movies, but in real life," Villanueva said.

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