While heading home from church on Sunday, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Lt. Minh Dinh and his wife saw something very out of place. What happened next made Dinh a hero as he saved a terrified stray kitten from a car engine.
While driving on the 60 Freeway near the Grand Avenue exit in Diamond Bar, Dinh, a 31-year LASD veteran who works in internal affairs, noticed a strange sight. A woman was sitting on a blanket by her vehicle on the emergency lane of the westbound right shoulder.
"I see (a woman) sitting out there on top of this blanket that she put on the ground and it was pretty hot out there," Dinh said, "So I said, 'Why would she be sitting in the hot sun like that?'"
Dinh and his wife Jenny Ha, a retired LASD lieutenant, pulled over to offer help. They expected to find the woman, Cathy Chang, dealing with an overheated engine or some other sort of “normal” car trouble. What they came upon was something much more peculiar.
“I see a can of cat food that (Chang) had already opened, this brand new can, and it was sitting right there on top of this (blanket),” Dinh said.
When the couple asked if she needed help, Chang explained that a cat had run across the freeway and into the engine of her BMW. She told them she could even hear it meowing.
When Dinh looked inside the van’s engine, however, he saw no sign of the kitten. He decided to call a tow truck, thinking the cat may have hidden itself underneath the BMW. He looked again in the engine compartment for good measure, and still found nothing.
Then another vehicle pulled over nearby. The driver of the vehicle came up to the trio and said his car was overheating. Dinh, who considers himself a “weekend mechanic,” according to an LASD press release, went over to take a look. When he was walking back to Chang’s van, Dinh noticed a brown spot in the van’s grille.
He immediately knew something was not right.
“So I look a little closer and I see a furball, a little fur, sticking out,” Dinh said. “Sure enough, the cat found its way into the grill and lodged itself inside this little old van.”
Dinh lifted the vehicle with a jack and removed a panel that allowed him to reach behind the grille and grab the kitten.
The mischievous feline was later taken to Ontario Rescue on Montclair, where it remains safe, healthy, and extremely lucky to be alive.
Things may have turned out far worse for the kitten had it not crossed paths with just the right people. Chang volunteers at the rescue, which is why she just so happened to have unopened cans of cat food in her van. Dinh and Ha were able to quickly take control of the situation due to their law enforcement backgrounds.
Additionally, Dinh’s mechanic skills paid off in a way he never saw coming.
"I knew where to take [the engine apart] without having to destroy someone else’s vehicle," Dinh said.