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Christmas Day deck collapse leads to dog rescue in Columbia County

After a Bloomsburg family's typical Christmas took a terrifying turn, rescuers halted their own holidays to spring into action.

BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — It was a typical Christmas morning at the Unger family household in Bloomsburg. Presents had just been opened.

"She got a shotgun for Christmas. We were going to bring it out, shoot a couple rounds off," said Joel Unger. 

Joel and his daughter Cheyanne Unger headed to the deck of their home. Cheyanne's brother and their 6-month-old Golden Retriever, Luna, followed along. 

"All of a sudden, I heard some weird noise," said Noreen Unger, Joel's mother.

But the sound Noreen heard from inside was not a gunshot: the outside deck had collapsed.

"I went to the doorway, and the first thing I saw was my son rolling down the bank," said Noreen.

Then, it was one miracle after the next. Cheyanne and her brother tumbled safely to the side. Joel somehow missed posts sticking out of the ground on his way down. 

"I just feel that the Lord guided him down that bank, that he missed everything," said Noreen.

Immediately, everyone's attention was on the pup, Luna. 

"Found out that she had jumped in the river, and they found her on this island," said Noreen.

The Unger family tells Newswatch 16 this was Luna's first time ever even going in the water. 

Rescuers estimate the dog swam about 150 yards to the island across from the Unger's backyard.

"I don't know if I could swim that far," said Joel. 

About two hours after the deck collapsed, the family called 911.

"I said well, let me see if we can get the guys together and the boat in water," said Chief Scott McBride of the Bloomsburg Fire Department.

The rescuers say though they were each in the middle of something with their families, they didn't hesitate to stop their own Christmas Day celebrations.

"That's just a non-negotiable for us. We treat dogs just like cats, too, just like family members. They're someone's loved one," said Chief McBride.

"I wouldn't have lived with myself if we wouldn't have," said Deputy Chief John Mahon with the Bloomsburg Fire Department.

The rescuers had to gain Luna's trust first. 

"She got right to the tip of the island where she had nowhere else to go, and her option was either surrender or jump in the water. And I think she wanted to go home," said Chief McBride.

Finally, the rescuers were able to boat the dog back to shore. Each member of the Unger family Newswatch 16 spoke with expressed complete gratitude.

"Very grateful," Cheyanne said. "That they stopped their day to come get her."

"They are the best people in the world, and I can't say enough to thank them for what they did for us," Joel said.

"I know how much she means to my uncle and the family, and I'm glad everybody's safe," Ashley Morgan, Joel Unger's niece, said.

"When Cheyanne called and told me that they had gotten her, I cried," Noreen said. "'Cause when I look at that little dog and think that she was in that river – she made it. My son made it." 

Check out WNEP’s YouTube page.

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