Grizzly Bear Attack Survivor Describes Ordeal

Survivor: "I remember it running behind me, and the jaws just on my head."

July 25, 2011, 11:04 AM

July 25, 2011 -- "I was looking for an adventure," said Samuel Gottsegen, the Denver teenager who survived a grizzly bear attack in the Alaska this weekend. His adventure came with bite marks in his head and a pierced lung.

Gottsegen, 17, took part in the National Outdoor Leadership School student expedition with 13 other students and three instructors. On the last leg of the trip, seven students remained in what NOLS spokesperson Bruce Palmer describes as a "self-sufficiency field base experience."

After dinner, the seven students went hiking. They were lining up in a single file to cross a river in the Alaskan backcountry near Chulitna, about 120 miles north of Anchorage, according to ABC affiliate KMGH.

"We turned this corner and the person in front started screaming and yelling bear, and we all turned and ran," he told ABC News.

"I saw this brown something, this brown shape attacking my friends... I remember as I was running, I turned to look and it was maybe four feet behind me, and it just launched on me," Gottsegen said. "I remember it running behind me, and .... the jaws just on my head, and I thought I'm going to die, I'm not going to live through this."

Gottsegen said that he did not get a good look at the bear, but a friend saw it stand on two legs, "almost 8 feet tall. It was this huge snarling thing."

The teenager was awed by the speed of the massive bear. "It runs so much faster than a human, I didn't have a chance," he said.

Survivor Describes Grizzly Bear Attack

Palmer said Gottsegen and Joshua Berg, 17, of New City, N.Y., received the brunt of the bear attack.

"Josh got the worst of it," Gottsegen said. "He has a lot of deep scratches on his head, candy bar sized chunk out of it."

The hikers carried bear spray, sort of like Mace for bears, but "We had no chance to pull it out. It was just on top of us."

The fury of the bear's assault is a swarm of brown fur, shredded clothing and blood.

"It was all kind of a blur... It came back and tackled me a second time," he said. "I saw this bear or something, and my friend's face was all red with blood.... I looked down and my jacket was all cut up, my shirt was all cut up."

Gottsegen said the bear took on all of the hikers.

"I don't know if it swiped me. I ended up on my back and just kind of rolling around," he said.

The bear "was running between four of us, would attack me and leave, come back. [It] was basically running in between us and attacking and coming back again," Gottsegen said.

"When it thought we were all injured enough, it left," he said.

The grizzly's decision to leave may have been aided by a kick in the face. Palmer said the bear finally ran off when Victor Martin, 18, of Richmond, Calif., fought back.

"He grabbed ahold of Victor's leg and Victor kicked him with his other foot, and at that point the bear ran away," Palmer said.

When the carnage was over, the group set up a camp, provided first aid to each other and activated their Personal Locator Beacon at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, according to police. But it took over five hours for the rescue helicopter to reach the camp sight.

"I really wasn't able to walk," Gottsegen said. "I took my off jacket because I was cut up...I was trying to hold my ribs because they were bleeding when I breathed and I could hear sputtering."

His friends helped Gottsegen make a bandage out of a garbage bag.

"During the night, I was in too much pain. I could only focus on breathing. By the time trooper got there, I was in better condition. I heard noises around me and thought if this bear comes back I won't make it," he said.

At one point, Gottsegen glanced over and saw his friend's face. "It just hit me I may have witnessed my friend die."

A helicopter carrying a pilot and a state trooper was launched and at 2:45 a.m., the students were found in a tent.

Gottsegen and Berg are currently in Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. According to hospital spokesperson, Crystal Bailey, Gottsegen has now been updated to "good condition," while Berg is still listed as being in "serious condition."

Martin was taken to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center and was released after being treated for a bite wound above his ankle, according to Palmer.

Noah Allaine, 16, of Albuquerque, N.M., was also taken into Mat-Su, and listed in good condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

In a phone call from his hospital bed, Gottsegen told his parents, "I have a bunch of cuts on my stomach and back... I guess they said I have two broken ribs, and bite marks on my head."

Looking distressed during the call, Gottsegn's mother, Mindy Gottsegen, said that hearing her son's voice after the bear attack "was like a miracle."

"It was just amazing because the hour that I spent before that was probably one of the hardest hours of my life," she said.

Alaska state troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters applauded the teens' survival skills.

"For one thing they were prepared to be out on the wilderness, they had the necessary gear. Those were right things to do. They were able to keep their heads about them, stay together and look after each other," Peters said.

Another group from the NOLS was backpacking about 6 miles away from the bear attack, though they never came in contact with the bear. They were plucked out of the woods by helicopter on Sunday night.

The attack comes less than a month after a 57-year old man was killed in Yellowstone National Park when he and his wife encountered a bear on a hike. In that case officials believe that the bear was also protecting her cubs.

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