California woman and four dogs rescued after 7 hours trapped in car

After her car skidded off California State Route 32, sending it crashing 130 feet down a steep embankment, a Ukiah woman was left hanging upside down in the vehicle for seven hours with four dogs inside with her. 

Tina Milberger was driving between Chester and Chico on the edge of the Sierra at 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, when her car left the road, CalTrans said in a statement last week on the “terrifying” crash. The accident happened when Milberger tapped her brakes after seeing high-beam headlights coming around the corner, hit a patch of black ice and lost control, Milberger’s boyfriend said in a GoFundMe post.  

Two CalTrans District 2 maintenance employees, Vic Baccala and Chuck Braswell, were plowing snow in the area early the next morning when they saw tire tracks veering off the side of the highway. They shone a flashlight down the hill into the vehicle, prompting Milberger to honk the car’s horn, CalTrans said. 

First responders were able to rescue Milberger and three of the four dogs with a rope system. Milberger was airlifted to a Chico hospital; a CalTrans spokesperson told SFGATE on Monday that the victim suffered bruising and minor burns and is making a full recovery.

The following day, CalTrans employee Shannon Kenyon, from the nearby Chester maintenance station, learned that one of the dogs, “Macho,” was still missing. As a dog lover, Kenyon spent the next three days searching and calling near the crash site for Macho.

On Nov. 5, as a storm was approaching the region, Kenyon headed out to make one last attempt. 

“I walked over to the edge and I yelled ‘Macho,’ I walked to where I could see down the hill and I saw something red move,” Kenyon said, according to the statement. “I took a leap of faith, grabbed my gloves, and headed down the mountain.”

Kenyon eventually found Macho in his red collar, growling, scared and unable to move his back legs near a creek. 

“I just remember saying to him, ‘You’re going to have to trust me. You have to trust me. You have to get out of here, you can’t stay here,'” Kenyon said. “So I reached out, put my arms around him and he let me pick him up, he just leaned into me and up the hill I went with this 40 plus pound dog.”

“Macho,” and his rescuer, CalTrans maintenance employee Shannon Kenyon.


The following day Macho, a 10-month-old pup, was reunited with his siblings and owner. The dog’s injuries included a crushed pelvis and legs, according to a GoFundMe set up to raise money to help Macho walk again. CalTrans described the moment Macho was returned to his thankful owners as “a very emotional reunion.”

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