'Pako from Fire Ops' the hero as Sushi the labrador emerges after seven hours down a drain

29 July 2021 - 16:43 By gill gifford
Pako Mondleke of Fire Ops SA is held up high after his long efforts hanging upside down underground to save a trapped dog from a stormwater drain ended happily.
Pako Mondleke of Fire Ops SA is held up high after his long efforts hanging upside down underground to save a trapped dog from a stormwater drain ended happily.
Image: Robert Janbroers

A 14-year-old labrador has been safely reunited with his family after a mammoth seven-hour rescue operation.

The dog, Sushi, was trapped after falling down a manhole.

Fairlands community police forum patroller Robert Janbroers was part of the rescue mission, which started about 7am Thursday morning when someone called in a report to one of the local crime groups in the area about “a dog underground”.

“There’s no way of knowing exactly what happened, but it seems like at some point the dog tried to reverse itself into the tunnel and somehow got stuck down there,” Janbroers said.

Pako Mondleke of Fire Ops SA heads underground to rescue trapped Labrador Sushi from a stormwater drain.
Pako Mondleke of Fire Ops SA heads underground to rescue trapped Labrador Sushi from a stormwater drain.
Image: Robert Janbroers

The rescue mission attracted a huge amount of attention as the local Fire Ops, CSS Community Support Services, the police, Search and Rescue, Fairlands CPF, Renico and a local vet arrived to see if they could help.

“There must have been 40-50 emergency services [people] there all morning,” said Janbroers.

The seven-hour operation was a difficult one as Sushi was frightened and unwilling to come out.

Joburg Roads Agency arrived and removed a section of road to allow access to the drain and to make the passageway to the dog wide enough for a person to fit through.

The Fire Ops team eventually lowered rescue worker Pako Mondleke into the drain. They strapped his feet together and lowered him into the hole.

“They pushed him down head first with his arms above his head, but it was difficult because of all the sand and muck in there,” said Janbroers.

“They must have tried about three times before eventually on his fourth attempt they succeeded and managed to pull him out feet first with the dog.” 

The large crowd that had gathered to watch the mission burst into cheers and applause as “Pako from Fire-Ops” — as he has been widely hailed on social media — was lifted safely out, followed by Sushi, who came up lying on a blanket.

Pako Mondleke of Fire Ops sits happily with rescued Labrador, 14-year-old Sushi, after spending long periods hanging upside down in a stormwater drain to rescue the traumatised dog.
Pako Mondleke of Fire Ops sits happily with rescued Labrador, 14-year-old Sushi, after spending long periods hanging upside down in a stormwater drain to rescue the traumatised dog.
Image: Robert Janbroers

A vet examined the traumatised pet and Sushi was allowed to go home with his family.

Mondleke has become something of a hero in the neighbourhood, drawing scores of messages and thanks from people who followed the seven-hour mission through to the happy ending.

Traumatised but safe, Sushi recovers after being rescued from a stormwater drain in Kessel Street, Fairlands.
Traumatised but safe, Sushi recovers after being rescued from a stormwater drain in Kessel Street, Fairlands.
Image: Robert Janbroers

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