DOTHAN, Ala. - A community rallied together after a deadly crash to help a lost member of the family return home.
Sgt. Jonathon Whaley and another sergeant were first on the scene of the single-car accident that involved two young ladies, both 19. Their car had veered off the road into a telephone pole early Saturday morning. The driver, McKenzie Amanda Grace Catron, was pronounced dead at the scene. Her passenger was rushed to an area hospital.
But witnesses told the Dothan Police there was another passenger riding with the two college students at the time of the crash, but fled the scene. Kai, a pit bull, was scared off after the crash.
“We felt we needed to find the dog,” said Sgt. Whaley. “We were going to do whatever we needed to do to reunite this dog with this family.”
The police were soon joined by hundreds from the community. Firefighters, police, volunteers and more were on a mission to reunite Kai with her family. They actively searched the area around the crash and put up flyers in the search for Kai. Their labor of love was soon backed by a $1,000 reward put up by Cherry & Irwin Trial Lawyers.
One of those touched by Kai’s story was Lori Woodham, who helped spread the word on social media. Her push started the “Help Find Kai” Facebook page.
After two days of searching, Benjamin Irwin, the same attorney who fronted the reward and another volunteer, Allen Van Slyke, spotted Kai. But Kai wasn’t going to make it easy for them. The pair was quickly joined by others of the search party including Irwin’s wife Christine.
Irwin explained the “chase” in his Facebook post:
“My wife and I, with this wonderful couple Allen and Brittany pursued Kai for over a mile and up and down too many city streets and made multiple attempts to catch Kai, until we finally created a loving wall when she went inside a persons shelter in their back yard.
“It was amazing as it started out with just me and the other gentleman Allen in the picture. Then my wife just happened to be in the area searching as well and she joined in. We apologize to all the cars and other people we cut off or just plain ignored while we focused solely on recovering Kia.
“Over the city blocks and miles of both running and driving we found mutual friends who eventually jumped in and helped as well. Once our number was up to 8 people we were able to get Kia to relax enough for Brittany to be able to grab her collar. We gave Kia water and food at the spot but obviously she was too tired and anxious for either.”
Kai was taken to an area vet to be checked out. Other than fatigue and being dehydrated, Kai was given a clean bill of health.
In a post, Irwin said he planned to donate the money he put up for the reward to the animal shelter from which Kai was adopted.
"If everybody would react this way our world would be such a better place," said Sgt. Whaley.
Sgt. Whaley and his wife Ashley took up the task of driving 12 hours to reunite Kai with her family.
“I felt that God impressing on me that we needed to make this trip,” said Sgt. Whaley.
The Whaleys made a stop at a friend’s home in Tuscaloosa to help break up the trip for Kai. She was reunited Tuesday evening with Catron's family.
“I just know if I were them I would want the last tangible thing of someone I loved,” said Irwin.
Irwin said he said it was “compelling” how near strangers came together to find Kai. He said Cantron’s father told him that his “spirits were lifted” knowing that Kai was coming home.
Catron will be laid to rest Thursday in Missouri.
Her passenger remains in the hospital. Members of the community said they have reached out her family to see if there is anything they need.