Kayaker rescues dog in fatal DUI crash


SARASOTA, FLORIDA - January 10, 2021 - (SNN Local News 6) - The video by a fisherman who rescued a dog in the Gulf of Mexico has gone viral.

The Viszla fled from Saturday’s accident in which his owner, Sarasota resident Donna Chen, was killed when she was hit by a driver fleeing a DUI crash on Siesta Key.

At the time, Rory O’Connor didn’t know where the dog came from or why it was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico, a half mile off Siesta Key.

When the dog swam up to his kayak, he says he knew the animal was in distress and posed no threat.

“He had a look of terror in his eyes,” Rory O’Connor said in a phone interview with SNN Local News 6 on Monday. “He was really scared.”

Barney is back with his family.

Watch the video Rory O’Connor made of the rescue

O’Connor, who is from Bellingham, Wash., was visiting his sister in Sarasota, according to the Associated Press. He regularly videotapes his fishing trips and captured the dog’s rescue on a camera mounted on the kayak. The video, subtitled by O’Connor, has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.

“I have never fished a dog out of the water and probably never will again,” O’Connor said. “I was glad I was there. I was lucky I was there.”

After O’Connor took the dog, which had a microchip, to a veterinarian, the dog was reunited with the Chen family.

The dog was jogging with Chen along Midnight Pass Road when the fatal crash occurred Saturday afternoon. After the crash, the injured dog apparently ran away and jumped into the Gulf.

The dog’s owner, 53-year-old Donna Chen, died at the scene. The driver of the Nissan Altima that struck Chen, Blake Talman, 22, has been charged with DUI manslaughter and is being held in the Sarasota County.

“Barney is actually fine,” O’Connor said. The dog had no broken bones or internal injuries.

Watch video on Herald-Tribune News