Seventy-eight puppies in a van en route to pet stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania survived a crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on Wednesday morning, but two perished.
The two-vehicle crash, which left five people injured, happened around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday in the eastbound lanes of the Turnpike between the Willow Grove and Bensalem exits near mile-marker 346 in Lower Moreland Township, said Pennsylvania State Police.
The puppies were being transported from Ohio to various pet stores in New Jersey when the Ford E250 van they were in crashed into a Ford F350 pickup. Two pups died, but 78 survived, some with minor injuries and one with a broken leg.
Volunteers from the Southampton and Willow Grove fire companies responded for the auto rescue. They found much more.
"When we got on the scene that's when we realized there were so many puppies," said Southampton Fire Company No. 1 Chief Glenn McKenney.
Crews got all the puppies -- a handful that were running around -- off the road and got the people out of the damaged vehicles.
McKenney said once firefighters wrangled all the pups they put them on a flatbed trailer and played with the dogs to keep them occupied as they waited for the Bucks County SPCA to arrive. Most of the dogs went to the SPCA while 12 were released to the Puppy Hut pet store in New Jersey, said police.
Bucks County SPCA spokeswoman Annie Irwin, calling the situation a first in her 40 years with the agency, complemented firefighters for their hard work in wrangling the pups.
"I was so impressed with the firemen who responded to the call at 4:30 in the morning and rescued the puppies from the van and from the road," said Irwin.
A Pennsylvania state dog law enforcement officer issued violations for transporting underage puppies. The dogs' owner arrived from Ohio to claim the dogs and get them onto their final destinations. The pets were not immediately available for adoption.
Van driver Ronald Stephenson, 25, and his passenger, Forrest Sowards suffered minor injuries while the driver and passengers of the pickup suffered minor injuries, said police. The crash left traffic backed up on the Turnpike for some time.
Stephenson was cited for failing to maintain a safe distance when the pickup suddenly slowed in front of him.