A man and his dogs got a scary wake-up call Monday morning as the van they slept in overnight dangled over a busy highway near downtown St. Paul.

Luckily, both the 68-year-old man and his two pit bulls escaped unharmed.

The St. Paul man had received permission from First Baptist Church to regularly sleep in the van in their parking lot, said Sgt. Paul Paulos, a spokesman for the St. Paul police.

When the man woke up Monday around 7:30 a.m. his knee accidentally hit the gear shifter, causing the van to go in reverse, ride over an embankment and crash into a chain-link fence in the back of the lot overlooking eastbound Interstate 94, not far from the 9th Street overpass, Paulos said.

"This could have been a very devastating accident. … The fence actually saved this guy's life and possibly the dogs' lives," he said.

The man was able to free himself from the vehicle. When police were called to the scene, authorities had a tow truck pull the vehicle up from the edge to safety with the two dogs inside. While the vehicle was still hanging over the highway, the right two lanes on eastbound I-94 were closed. They were reopened around 9 a.m.

The man was sober and not in violation of any state laws, Paulos said.