N.Y. officers stage daring rescue in 40-foot pit and save . . . a cat

August 29, 1994|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- It was a daring rescue mission: A police officer was lowered into a 40-foot pit below a SoHo apartment, left to dangle in the darkness on the end of a rope in a perilous attempt to accomplish what four other officers could not.

In the end, under the glare of television lights, the officer had accomplished what four hours of aborted rescue attempts had failed to do.

He had saved Amelia the cat.

Amelia apparently had tumbled Saturday night from a window of the apartment belonging to her owner, Kirsty Kemp, a store designer for Ralph Lauren who had been in Korea on business.

Left alone, Amelia and Miss Kemp's other cat, Wilford, apparently tore the apartment apart during a dispute, and Amelia, in an effort to escape Wilford, ripped through a window screen and leaped into an open space 40 feet below the loft apartment, said Officer Philip Gatto of the First Precinct.

When Miss Kemp returned from her trip late Saturday, she discovered the cat below the apartment, furiously meowing but apparently unhurt.

She called the Fire Department, which informed her that, contrary to suburban mythology, cat rescues were not part of their business.

In desperation, she contacted the precinct, which dispatched Officer Gatto and his partner, Officer James Martin, to the scene around 1 a.m.

The two tried to lure Amelia into a lowered box, but the cat would not be enticed.

Other officers who were brought in made similar rescue attempts before being called away for more pressing duties.

Finally, Officer John Kobel of the department's Emergency Service unit was called to the scene.

He was lowered into the pit with heavy ropes that rigged him to a sturdy column on the side of the building.

A camera crew from the television show "Cops" that had been out with the police captured the drama.

The officer finally reached Amelia and returned her to the apartment around 6 a.m.

"I can't believe these people," said Miss Kemp, 31, as she stroked her cat. "Look what they did just for a little cat. This is a wonderful city."

Sgt. Joseph Diaz, who supervised the risky rescue, said: "If you can save any life, if it is an animal or a person, it is worth the trouble. No one can say this city doesn't have a heart."

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