x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Teenagers seriously hurt in grizzly attack

Participants in Alaska survival camp ignored advice to play dead.

Samuel Gottsegen, 17, is recovering in a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, after the bear attack at the weekend.
Samuel Gottsegen, 17, is recovering in a hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, after the bear attack at the weekend.

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA // The teens had been advised to play dead if they encountered a grizzly during their excursion in the Alaska wilderness.

But with the massive, snarling bear suddenly looming over them, Sam Gottsegen, 17, of Denver and the other participants of a backcountry survival course did what so many others would have done: they ran.

The bear pounced on some of the students, including Mr Gottsegen, who was among four seriously injured.

"When I heard that bear, when I saw it, it was all just like natural instincts," he said. "All night long I was thinking I should have played dead."

The attack at the weekend in the Talkeetna Mountains north of Anchorage came as the group of seven was nearing the end of the 30-day survival course. The teenagers were at a stage where they could try out their skills without adults around.

Playing dead after seeing a grizzly was part of the training, said Don Ford, the Alaska director of the National Outdoor Leadership School, the group that operated the backcountry programme.

"We recognise people are going to react differently," he said on Monday at a news conference. "You don't know how we're going to react. The bear came really fast, that's was super unusual."

The students were yelling as well, alerting bears possibly in the area that there were humans nearby, Mr Ford said. But this bear might not have heard them because of a rock outcropping in the area, he said.

As the grizzly furiously thrashed him about, all Mr Gottsegen could think about was what he would miss: college, travelling, life.

"I thought: 'I'm going to die,"' he said from his hospital bed in Anchorage. "I thought, 'This just can't be happening to me.'"