ST. FRANCIS COUNTY, Ark. — More than a dozen pet owners are still shaken up after a transport van carrying their dogs flipped and crashed on I-40. It happened Wednesday in St. Francis County, outside Forrest City. First responders say the vehicle was rear ended by a semi-truck.
Firefighters had to crawl into the wrecked van to save 22 dogs, most of them puppies.
"Crews started cutting the back doors to get those open, and another crew started cutting the roof to get access," Chief Shane Dallas said. "It wasn't just open the cage and get them out. The cages were damaged as well. So, we had to go in with equipment to cut each cage and free the animals one at a time."
Sadly, one dog didn't make it, and another escaped his damaged cage before firefighters got there. His name is Buddy, and he's still missing. His owner Alyssa Bobe is heartbroken.
"I don't think I'm ever going to see my dog again," she said. "Like, if he's not injured, he's probably hiding."
The van belongs to "Americas Exotic Pet Transport" and was delivering the dogs to various spots across the country. The company's owner says the driver and another employee who was in the vehicle are fine.
Suzan Gaston is still in shock from what happened, but is grateful her two labradoodles were rescued.
"All the rescuers on the scene I can't thank them enough," she said.
The rescue took a big team, including volunteers from the Forrest City Area Humane Society who took care of the little guys.
"And it was so hot you could tell a couple of them were suffering from, I guess you'd say heat exhaustion," volunteer Lisa Douglas said.
The rescued dogs were taken to Gehring Veterinary Hospital in Forrest City, where they've been staying since the crash. Americas Exotic says the dogs should be picked up Friday. The vet says they're all healthy.
"They're just like they could be kids to some people, you know, and they care about them," Chief Dallas said.
Search parties are still looking for Buddy. Bobe says she's stuck in California and can't get to Arkansas to look for Buddy herself.