Firefighters saved 53 rescue dogs from the crash. Here's the story of two of them.
Lucky, dog that was adopted by firefighters after they rescued him from a plane crash
Credit: Courtesy of Elle Steitzer

Most firefighters don't get called into cases involving animals too often. But they'll occasionally rescue a dog from a fire and, yes, retrieve a cat from a tree every so often.

The firefighters and EMTs at Lake County Fire & Rescue, however, went well beyond their typical duty when a plane carrying three people and 53 shelter dogs crash-landed on a golf course in Pewaukee, Wis., last month.

Two firefighters immediately bonded with a pair of pups at the crash site—making it impossible for them to not bring the little ones home. Oh, and they helped save everyone from the crash, too

The 'Surreal' Crash

Tony Wasielewski, deputy chief at Lake County Fire & Rescue, describes what rescuers saw: The plane—on its way to Waukesha from New Orleans—had lost a wing, smashed some trees, and rested on its belly, decimated.

"It was surreal," firefighter and EMT Elle Steitzer tells Daily Paws. "We can train for days on plane crashes, but until you actually see a plane on the ground … that reality piece doesn't really kick in."

Luckily, that reality and training did kick in: 53 dogs and three people in the crash needed help. The Lake County Fire & Rescue team quickly pulled the dogs away from the wreckage and out of mangled crates, tucking them into their jackets to keep them warm. The team did everything it could to keep the dogs safe and comfortable until they could be transported to local shelters.

And though nobody could have predicted a plane crash when they started work that day, Steitzer knew very quickly her life was going to change: She was determined to adopt one of the surviving dogs.

Marley with his friends. Marley was adopted by the firefighter that rescued him from a plane crash
Credit: Courtesy of Tony Wasielewski

Lucky and Marley Find New Homes

Linus—now Lucky—was one of the dogs Steitzer helped rescue on the scene.

"I would have taken them all home," Steitzer says, "but [this one] was just following me around, trying to get into the cockpit of the plane. He was the first one I was able to track down after calling different shelters in the county."

Lucky, aptly named for an L-shaped pattern in his fur and for coming out of the ordeal unscathed, has settled in quickly with his new family, including two fur siblings named Zara and Peach.

"We're happy to have him here," Steitzer says. "He's been pretty good. He's very sweet and obedient—not too naughty!"

Unlike Steitzer, Wasielewski wasn't so sure about adopting another dog—he already had two at home—but little Marley had other plans. She first encountered the deputy chief at the crash when he was sorting through the wreckage.

"She came out, ran to me, hopped into my arms, and started giving me kisses," Wasielewski says. He held onto her for a bit before passing her along and getting back to work. But when he saw her again later, she was so happy her butt started wiggling as she tried to get over to him.

Wasielewski still wasn't totally sold, but when his wife spotted Marley on the news the next day and tracked her down, they figured it was worth going to see her.

"They opened up the door, she ran past my wife, jumped into my lap, and started kissing me—I teared up a little bit," he says. "I said, 'Well, I guess we got [another] dog!'"

Like Lucky, Marley has adjusted to her new home just fine. "It's like she's been there her whole one year of her life," Wasielewski says. "She's truly at home."

We couldn't have predicted a happier ending for this scary accident—for everyone. Marley and Lucky weren't the only pups adopted by their rescuers, and we can only imagine everyone involved is happier for it.