When Klil Kimhi was sucked into a sinkhole that appeared underneath a swimming pool of a private home in central Israel a week ago, an Israel Defense Forces rescue dog was among the first to enter the tunnel that opened up and discover the terrifying extent of the disaster.
Inga the dog serves in the Oketz Unit, the independent canine special forces unit of the IDF. The dog was the one that managed to locate Kimchi inside the muddy tunnel of the sinkhole after hours of searches. Unfortunately, the 32-year-old man had to be pronounced dead at the scene.
The Oketz Unit specializes in locating, extracting and rescuing people in emergencies, and is on standby around the clock with a helicopter at its disposal that can reach any area in Israel.
Member of the unit were the first to arrive at the scene of the disaster in the town of Karmei Yosef - where Kimhi was attending a party of his marketing company - at around 3pm last Thursday.
After initial assessment of the situation, it was decided that Inga would be the best fit to enter the tunnel underneath the pool. “She was the most fit, since we brought with us bigger dogs as well,” said Sergeant Major A. of Oketz Unit.
“We realized only Inga will be able to provide live footage from her body camera. The sinkhole was connected to several underground tunnels, so we decided to send Inga through several of them, but she located the missing person on her first try.”
The camera attached to Inga allowed the team to see the 13-meter underground tunnel that opened under the pool on screens above ground. “It was muddy and wet, and in danger of collapsing,” Inga’s operator, G., recounted. “I was down there with Inga and an officer from the Home Front Command, with whom I previously worked.
“I went down there with a special dog harness along with Inga. An engineer of the Home Front Command could only see seven meters ahead and didn’t know what to expect, so it was beneficial for us to be there,” she said. “When we reached the lowest level, I released Inga, which advanced 10 meters further into the muddy tunnel – and I lost eye contact with her. I was still holding her leash and could feel her through it.”
Within seconds, Inga located the missing person, and barked at her operator as a signal. “I reported it quickly to a commander of the rescue team, who crawled to the point where the man was located and pulled him out.”
G. added that the mission was dangerous at every step, and that most of the rescuers at the scene were instructed to keep away from the sinkhole.
“I didn’t expect to find the man so fast, but I trusted Inga with my eyes closed,” she said. “Unfortunately, our mission ended in tragedy, but at the same time, we could have found the missing man alive. With our job as rescuers, we are trained to be prepared for such outcomes. I prepare myself for it.”