(Joe Marussak and Jared Gilmour | The Charlotte Observer) - Two cat lovers flew on a red-eye flight from California to South Carolina when they heard the desperate news: A 5-week-old kitten had fallen down a 43-foot well pipe and was crying out for help.
"Our biggest nightmare just turned into everything we could have asked for!!!" Loreta Frankonyte posted on Facebook after arriving at the well in Hopkins, S.C., on Monday with fellow Los Angelan Eldad Hagar, founder of L.A.-based animal rescue group Hope for Paws.
"Today was his 5th day inside the cold, dark pipe and the moment we landed, we received a new video of his," she wrote. "He was still alive but his voice was already weak, and Eldad and I knew that we were seriously running out of time."
Their friend and fellow animal rescuer Kimberly Cockrell was waiting at the scene for Frankonyte and Hagar, along with "two very compassionate plumbers" from Freedom Plumbing, Frankonyte posted. The plumbers had camera equipment they were ready to put into the pipe, she said.
A homeowner had initially alerted the would-be rescuers to the kitten's cries.
As reported by Columbia NBC-TV affiliate WISTV, the homeowner had turned sticks into a "ladder" for the kitten, but the ladder broke and blocked part of the narrow pipe. When the rescuers arrived, they used "fishing supplies" to remove the "ladder," the station reported.
The plumbers then lowered their camera into the pipe. It revealed "a wet, cold, crying kitten," the station reported.
By also lowering a "looped rope," according to WISTV, the plumbers and Eldad pulled the kitten up and out.
The kitten's rescuers named him Jessie.
"Thank you for all your amazing ideas, we definitely had many choices, but thank God our instinct kicked in and we chose what we thought would be quickest as little Jessie already had hypothermia and had to be rescued and rushed to the hospital asap!!!" Frankonyte said in her Facebook post on Monday.
"As Eldad pulled him out, Jessie was ice cold and super weak, we started to fear that he won't make it," she posted.
Well, the little guy did survive, Frankonyte said in a followup post on Tuesday morning with video of the kitty scampering about in a local animal hospital.
Jessie suffered hypothermia during his five days at the bottom of the pipe, Frankonyte posted. "We were relieved to know that no bones were broken, but he did have a little bit of muscle atrophy, that's why his back legs were a little wobbly."
"Jessie says thank you all so much for your support, prayers and all the love," Frankonyte said in her Tuesday morning post. "He is recovering much faster because of all of you!!!"
Frankonyter and Hagar planned to fly home on Wednesday -- with one fortunate kitty in tow, according to WISTV.