OAK HARBOR — North Whidbey Island residents and first responders came together to rescue a horse that fell down a defunct well last week.
North Whidbey Fire and Rescue received the distress call at 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday. The horse’s owner, Karl Lang, told King 5 reporters that his daughter went outside to feed the horses in the morning and realized one of the five was missing.
The owners discovered that the horse had fallen into a century-old well on their property near Highway 20 and Monkey Hill Road. Karl’s daughter, Emily Lang, said the well has been covered for as long as the family has lived on the property, so they aren’t sure how the horse, Blaze, managed to fall in.
The well is narrow, only about 4 feet by 4 feet, and 15 to 20 feet deep. When North Whidbey Fire and Rescue responders arrived, Blaze was visible about 7 feet down the well shaft, moving around but clearly distressed. Responders from Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue and Navy Region Northwest Fire joined the scene to assist in the rescue.
The firefighters also brought in Island County public works employee Kelli Short, in case they needed to dig around the well to get to Blaze. Short’s husband was working nearby with an excavator, which he brought to the scene.
North Whidbey Fire and Rescue Chief Chris Swiger said the rescue team lowered two Navy responders into the well head-first to sedate Blaze and wrap him in the straps used to hoist him out. Luckily, Blaze had fallen in back end-first. Karl Lang told King 5 reporters at the scene that if the horse had fallen head-first, he might have broken his neck or drowned.
As it was, Blaze escaped uninjured, save for a few scrapes, though his owners and veterinarians will continue to monitor his status carefully over the next few days.
“Blaze is doing well, but we are not out of the woods yet,” Emily Lang said. “Horses’ bodies work so differently, so we have a lot to look for still.”
Emily said the family has recapped the well and blocked it off with additional fencing for good measure. She passed along her family’s thanks to all the responders, volunteers and neighbors who assisted in getting Blaze safely back above ground.
“We are so thankful and blessed to live in this amazing community,” she said.
Swiger also noted the massive community effort undertaken to rescue Blaze. Even neighbors who allowed responders access to the scene through their properties played a role, he said.
“It was a great team effort on everybody’s part,” he said.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.