Luzie Sustains a Broken Hip and a Bloody Mouth Before She Is Successfully Rescued from the Busy Elbtunnel
"Als mein Mann sie hochgehoben und an sich gedrueckt hat, ist sie ihm gleich unter die Warnweste gekrabbelt."
-- Steffi de Vries
Boasting four tubes and eight lanes that carry one-hundred-fifty-thousand vehicles per day, the Neuer Elbtunnel in Hamburg is no place for pedestrians, let alone an eight-week-old kitten. Nonetheless, that is precisely where Luzie found herself stranded during the morning rush hour on June 30th.
Fortunately for her, she was spotted by a concerned motorist who telephoned the local police in order to report a "Katze in Roehre Ein des Elbtunnels." Forty-one-year-old traffic cop Soenke de Vries responded promptly to the call and was on the scene within four minutes.
He ordered the first tube closed and within six minutes he had spotted the frightened and bleeding Luzie cowering behind a support cable. "Als mein Mann sie hochgehoben und an sich gedrueckt hat, ist sie ihm gleich unter die Warnweste gekrabbelt," his thirty-five-year-old wife, Steffi, later related to the Hamburger Abendblatt on July 27th. (See "Luzies wunderbare Rettung aus dem Elbtunnel.")
Luzie was taken to an animal shelter where it was determined that she had suffered a broken hip and an unspecified injury to her mouth. Most likely she was the victim of a glancing blow from a motorist because it would have been impossible for her to have survived a direct hit.
Soenke, quite naturally, informed Steffi of the extraordinary rescue and she immediately decided that she had to have Luzie. "Wir haben staendig angerufen, um zu fragen, 'Wie es ihr geht?'," she told the Hamburger Abendblatt. "Die Mitarbeiter in der Telefonzentrale kannten unseren Namen nach einer Weile schon und haben uns dann gleich ins Katzenhaus durchgestellt."
As things eventually turned out, she got her wish in that no one came forward to claim Luzie. She now lives with the de Vrieses and their ten-year-old son, Lennart, and his cat, Emil, in nearby Buchholz. (See photo above.)
Although no one knows for sure either how long Luzie was in the tube or how she came to be stranded there in the first place, Soenke categorically rejects the notion that she was deliberately abandoned there. "Das waere zu aufaellig gewesen," he opined to the Hamburger Abendblatt. "Wahrscheinlich kam sie vom Othmarschenpark die Boeschung runter."
Without knowing exactly where within the more than three-kilometer-long tunnel Luzie was found, it perhaps would be inappropriate to dismiss out of hand de Vries' analysis of events. Nevertheless, his theory strains credulity.
First of all, it is extremely difficult to see how this diminutive kitten ever could have made it into the tunnel in the first place without being run down by a motorist. (See photo above of the entrance to the tunnel.)
Secondly, kittens and cats are frightened to death of cars, trucks, and loud noises and this petit fait alone makes it highly unlikely that Luzie ever would have ventured anywhere near the Elbtunnel on her own volition. Thirdly, the way in which she immediately crawled underneath de Vries' vest without the least bit of hesitation is a further indication that she already was accustomed to being handled by humans and was far from being a feral kitten.
Consequently, it is more likely than not that she was purposefully dumped in the tunnel and left there to die underneath the wheels of a speeding motorist. After all, disposing of unwanted cats and kittens in tunnels is far from being a novel idea.
A similar situation occurred on August 7, 2006 when the Autobahnpolizei were forced to twice in one day close the busy five-kilometer-long Roppen Tunnel in the Tirol section of western Austria in order to rescue a ten-week-old kitten named Lucky who had been purposefully dumped there. (See photo below.)
After spending at least two days in the dangerous tunnel, the black female with red spots finally was corralled and handed over to the Oberland Cattery in Wenns im Pitztal. Although she was covered in soot and nearly starved to death, Lucky was otherwise in pretty good shape and Oberland therefore immediately began searching around for a new home for her.
"She is very friendly and I don't think we'll have trouble finding a home for her," Manuela Prantl of Oberland said at the time. (See Cat Defender post of August 14, 2006 entitled "Austrian Officials Close Busy Alpine Tunnel in Order to Rescue Kitten Cruelly Abandoned by a Motorist.")
The circumstances surrounding Lucky's rescue left little room for doubt that she had been a victim of malice aforethought. "She may have been deliberately abandoned because she was right in the middle of it," Prantl told Der Spiegel on August 9, 2006. (See " 'Lucky' the Kitten Causes Tunnel Closure.") "She would have had to walk two and a half kilometers in each direction to get out."
The fact that they are dark, uncrowded at night, and offer cats no escape, would appear to be the main characteristics that make tunnels such appealing dumping grounds for cats. Far more emboldened cat-haters simply toss them out the windows of their speeding vehicles and onto busy highways in broad daylight. (See Cat Defender posts of July 2, 2009, August 28, 2008, and January 14, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Three-Week-Old Lucky Is Rescued by a Staten Island Judge after She Is Tossed Out the Window of a Pickup Truck on Hylan Boulevard," "In Memoriam: Trooper Survives Being Thrown from a Speeding Automobile Only to Later Die on the Operating Table," and "Freeway Miraculously Survives Being Tossed Out the Window of a Truck on Busy I-95 in South Florida.")
In between those two extremes are individuals who abandon cats on bridges as well as those who go whole hog by weighting them down and tossing them into rivers and streams. (See Cat Defender posts of July 6, 2009 and January 13, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Miracle Survives a Drowning Attempt on the McClugage Bridge and Later Hitchhikes a Ride to Safety Underneath the Car of a Compassionate Motorist" and "Montana Firefighters Rescue 'Lucky' Calico Cat Who Was Caged and Purposefully Thrown into an Icy River.")
Unless concerned citizens are able to copy down the license plate numbers of individuals who insist upon killing cats by dumping them in traffic, there is little that the authorities can do in order to eradicate this odious practice. Since the Elbtunnel is equipped with seventy-two surveillance cameras, it is not too late for the polizei to review the accumulated footage in an attempt to determine exactly who was responsible for trying to kill Luzie.
Photos: Soenke and Steffi de Vries (family with Luzie and Emil), Autobahn Atlas (Elbtunnel), and Tierschutzverein fuer Tirol (Lucky).