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10-month-old puppy falls from cliff as family remembers 16-year-old who died there

PAYSON, Ariz. — It’s a hard story to tell for the Zabek family. They visit the Mogollon Rim, featuring a 2,000-foot drop, every year to honor the death of Stephen Zabek, who lost his life at just 16 years old in 2003.

“It kind of like, restarted all those feelings for me,” said Zach Zabek, Stephen’s younger brother. He was just 13 when his brother fell from a cliff.

On Monday, Oct. 8, his parents took his 10-month-old puppy, Hannah, along for the journey to remember their beloved son.

“As soon as she opened up the car door, she jumped out and ran toward the edge and fell off,” Zabek said.

In a panic, they called 911, but authorities told them it was too dangerous to send any of their men down 50 feet to attempt the rescue.

Zach Zabek, one of Phoenix fire’s latest recruits, called on a mentor at the department, who picked up the phone and called Mark Delima, a retired fireman who now owns American Rescue Concepts (ARC).

Using a pulley-system, he lowered fireman Todd Lentz down 50 feet with a harness for Hannah. Then, Delima pulled them both back to safety.

“I know they were super stoked,” Delima said. “Spending the night out there with a dog they can’t get to and they can hear her crying down there, and they just want to be with their dog. Who doesn’t, man? We all have dogs. We love them just as much as we love our kids. Yeah, it was really good to be a part of.”

Zabek said he and his family are forever grateful both were willing to take the risk.

“She means the world to me. She’s just such an awesome little puppy. Where she fell and the terrain and her not having any injuries is pretty amazing. She had a guardian angel looking out for her that night,” said Zabek.

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