Three puppies inside vehicle that went off cliff near White Pass last week have been recovered


Three puppies that were inside a vehicle that crashed about 200 feet down an embankment near White Pass last week have all been rescued and returned to the victim’s family.

The puppies are alive and in good health.

“If you have followed us for any period of time, you probably have figured out our stories and incidents generally don't end until they are good and ready to. This incident on the pass is no different and we are happy to say, it finally has the ending we were all hoping for,” the Naches Fire Department, which was involved in the response to the vehicle accident and the subsequent puppy rescues, said Sunday in a Facebook post.

The crash itself occurred at milepost 154 on U.S. Highway 12 in Yakima County just after 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12, according to the Washington State Patrol. A citizen had reported seeing tire tracks in the snow leaving the roadway, and the State Patrol, Naches Fire Department and City of Yakima Fire Department responded and attempted to locate the vehicle and its driver with a drone.

“Due to the weather conditions, there were no heat registers detected and because of the darkness, nothing was obviously visible in the camera,” the Naches Fire Department said in a March 13 Facebook post.

With improved conditions the next morning, crews were able to recover the vehicle’s deceased driver, who has since been identified as Michael R. Swett, 51, of Sikeston, Missouri.

Crews were also able to rescue “a small black puppy that had been in the vehicle at the time of the accident,” according to the Naches Fire Department.

“The puppy was alive, but obviously very cold,” the department stated in a March 13 Facebook post.

Swett’s vehicle, a white 1997 Chevy Tahoe, was “unrecoverable” and was left at the scene, according to the state patrol.

The puppy was temporarily placed into the care of a paid on-call fire department member.

Early the next morning, a citizen driving past the crash site “noticed a small black and white dog on the road near the summit,” pulled over, picked up the dog and continued home, according to the Naches Fire Department.

The citizen and his wife took the dog to a vet and gave it a bath that morning before the wife went to work and learned about the three dogs involved in the White Pass wreck. Suspecting the dog they found was one of the two that were still missing, they contacted the Naches Fire Department and turned over the dog.

“We were able to reunite both dogs this afternoon and it was obvious they knew each other,” the department said in a Facebook post on Saturday, March 16.

Meanwhile, Swett’s fianceé contacted the Yakima Humane Society looking for the missing puppies. The Naches Fire Department reunited her with two of the three missing dogs on Saturday.

“When the victim's fianceé came over this evening to pick up the dogs, it was very obvious they were hers,” the fire department said in a March 16 Facebook post.

But the story doesn't end there.

On Sunday, March 17, Swett’s family stopped at the site of the wreck to leave a memorial ahead of Swett’s funeral service.

“They were looking over the guardrail at the landscape and the bits and pieces of the car and noticed a crow hopping down a log. Someone looked a little closer and said, ‘That's not a crow! That's Sissy!’” the Naches Fire Department stated on Facebook, adding that the family had located the third missing puppy about 50 yards down the hill from U.S. Highway 12.

Swett’s family contacted the Washington State Patrol, which contacted the Naches Fire Department for assistance. Fire personnel were able to rappel down the hill and retrieve the final puppy, which “was in good shape and was elated to be with family again,” the department stated in a March 17 Facebook post.

“From all of us at Naches Fire, thank you again for the shares, comments and likes on our stories. We all do this for no other reason than we love to serve our community, even the furry and four-legged one,” the Naches Fire Department stated.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, according to the Washington State Patrol.