NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A local teenager is fighting for his life after being mauled in Alaska and he’s not the only victim. Josh Berg of New City was with a group of teens learning survival skills when the grizzly bear attacked.
The teens, ages 16 through 18, were in a group of seven participating in a 30-day backcountry course conducted by the National Outdoor Leadership School when a grizzly bear, walking with her cub, attacked them Saturday night in the Talkeetna Mountains north of Anchorage.
When the bear attacked with sudden speed, it first mauled 17-year-old Berg and then attacked Colorado teenager Sam Gottsegen. Berg suffered life-threatening injuries, but survived an arduous evacuation to an Anchorage hospital, CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported.
Berg’s parents left their New City home to be with their son, leaving stunned neighbors and his friends praying for the best.
“I couldn’t imagine. The poor kid was probably suffering and it’s sad,” a friend told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey.
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The teens told troopers they were preparing to cross a river around 8:30 p.m. when suddenly the bear burst onto the scene and started attacking.
“I thought I was going to die when I was being attacked. I was so scared. I looked behind me and the bear was behind me, so I started running down the hill and it tackled me on the way down,” Gottsegen said.
Berg may also have saved a fellow student’s life, CBS 2’s Rob Morrison reported.
“There was a sow bear, a mother bear, with a cub, and they just kind of I guess they just came across the bear, sort of startled it,” the victim’s father, Jon Gottsegen, said. “He got knocked down and it bit him.”
Gottsegen was in bad shape with a punctured lung, broken rips and head and chest wounds. That’s when Berg bravely jumped into the fray.
“Another boy came up and started kicking the bear, you know, to help Sam fight the bear off, and the bear then went away,” said Mindy Gottsegen, the boy’s mother. “So I don’t know who that was, but I’m extremely grateful to that person.”
Both Berg and Gottsegen are listed in serious condition at an Anchorage hospital.
“I could not even imagine, I couldn’t even imagine,” neighbor Diane Brown said of her neighbors’ situation.
“He always talks about going to Alaska. He must be up there at least twice a year. And he goes up there all the time and it’s almost as if it’s his second home,” Berg’s high school classmate, Brian Foley, told Aiello.
When the bear broke off the attack, the teens activated a personal locator beacon they carried to be used only for an emergency, state trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said. The group was rescued early Sunday.
Samual Boas, 16, of Westport, Conn., who has had training as an emergency medical technician, stayed with the badly injured teens for hours until rescuers arrived in a specially equipped helicopter to transport them to the hospital.
Other students injured in the attack were Victor Martin, 18, of Richmond, Calif., who was treated and released for a bite wound above his ankle, said Bruce Palmer, a spokesman for NOLS. Noah Allaine, 16, of Albuquerque, N.M., remains hospitalized in good condition with unknown injuries.
The teens were in the 24th day of their course when the attack occurred. There was no instructor with them because that far into the course, they’ve learned enough survival skills, Palmer said.
“Our basic goal is that when a student graduates from the NOLS course, they have the experience and background to be able to take other people out into the backcountry,” he said. “We’re training people to be outdoor leaders, basically.”
Calling out to alert bears of human presence and give nearby animals a chance to flee is among the skills learned in the course.
“The students say they were doing that,” Palmer said.
A teenager from Huntington, L.I. was also part of the group. He was unharmed.
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