Friday, July 25, 2008
Utah Resident Abigail Sisk Improving, But Will Need More Surgery And Grafts After Bear Attack Near Cooper Landing, Alaska
The Anchorage Daily News and the [Kenai] Peninsula Clarion have provided the first on-the-scene progress reports on the condition of Utah resident Abigail "Abi" Sisk (pictured at left), who was badly mauled by a bear on Wednesday July 23rd, 2008 at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge near Cooper Landing, Alaska, approximately 50 miles east of Kenai. This post is designed to provide more of the Alaska media perspective. And to provide even more Alaska perspective, here's a news video from KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage from the evening of July 25th:
Tammy Sisk, identified as Abi's mother, reports that her daughter's condition is improving. The 21-year-old seasonal worker, who was working at the lodge as a housekeeper, has been moved out of the critical care unit at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage and will undergo surgery for a broken jaw on Saturday.
Sisk was hospitalized Wednesday night after an attack by a brown bear at the lodge in Cooper Landing. According to the Anchorage Daily News, she'd been heading home from a hike, and bent down to look at a flower, when she heard something purring in the bushes. Before she could react, the bear, estimated to be eight feet tall, was on her, ripping into her. She went limp, trying to play dead. The bear let go. She waited. The lodge was so close, only 25 yards away. She started to move, but she hadn't waited long enough. The bear was on her again. That's when a bystander, Robert Vin Zant, heard her scream.
As soon as he saw what was happening, Vin Zant hollered at his daughter, Andria, to call 911 and get his gun from the car. Andria ran inside the lodge for help and gave her father his gun. Then she called her mom. Vin Zant then returned to the scene and tried to make himself loud and big to get the bear off Sisk. He put his hands out and came running at the bear as fast as he could. The bear went up on his hind legs looked at him, and then the bear dropped again, back to all fours, like it was contemplating dinner. After Vin Zant charged the bear a second time, it ran off. Sisk lay on the ground, her scalp torn and her brown hair wet with blood.
Her scalp was torn and some of the tissue has died, which could mean several surgeries and grafting procedures will be needed to repair the damage, said her mother, Tammy Sisk. This morning, Abi was eating and talking. Doctors will likely send her outside for further procedures, possibly to Portland or Salt Lake City.
According to the lodge's general manager Dan Michels, bears are common around the lodge in the summertime, especially at night. All the employees go through bear training, and, even though some trash isn't in bear-proof cans during the day, all trash is locked behind an electric fence at night.
Larry Lewis, Fish and Game wildlife technician, walked the trails Thursday with troopers but found no sign of the bear. Cooper Landing has more than its share of human/bear encounters in the summer, in part because of the large number of seasonal visitors and the great bear fishing in the shallow streams off the Kenai River, he said. The bear was likely surprised by Sisk. She was by herself and probably wasn't making a lot of noise, he said. The bear was acting to eliminate a threat. It was a little unusual because Sisk was so close to the busy lodge. This is the second bear mauling of a seasonal worker at the Kenai Princess in recent memory. In 2005, another 21-year-old employee was grabbed by a bear and dragged, but she fought furiously and escaped injury.
The story of the bear attack was also reported in Utah by the Deseret News, the Salt Lake Tribune, KTVX Channel 4, and KSL Channel 5. You can also read this updated account dated July 29th posted in the Mormon Times.