City of Commerce train derailment

June 20, 2003

A Los Angeles neighborhood was thrown into chaos when 28 freight cars went flying off their tracks, crashing into homes and causing at least 11 injuries.  The L.A. County Fire Department immediately called in SDF canine-firefighter teams to search for survivors. Within an hour of the derailment, three SDF canine-firefighter teams were on the scene scrambling through tons of lumber and debris. Another SDF dog and firefighter were flown in by helicopter. The teams searched through the night for local residents not yet accounted for.

"If there were any live victims under the rubble, their loved ones would have a chance of finding them thanks to these dedicated firefighters and search dogs. With their highly sensitive noses, dogs have an outstanding chance of finding people alive under all that lumber and steel," said SDF Founder, Wilma Melville.

Three of the teams were from the Montebello Fire Department: Marc Valentine & Val, a Golden/Labrador mix whose training was sponsored by Ojai Rotary West; Fernando Peleaz & Rosa, a black Lab originally donated by Ojai resident Liz Harward; and Russell Tao & Harry, a chocolate Lab raised by Nathan and Michelle Henson, also Ojai residents. Ron Weckbacher & Manny, a Border Collie, were flown in from L.A. Station No. 88.