A backcountry skier is lucky to be alive after being mauled by a bear in Alaska and airlifted to safety by the U.S. Coast Guard.
The man was skiing with two others Saturday afternoon near Haines when the bear attacked. Alaska state troopers were contacted and then the Coast Guard was called in to help.
“An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Sitka hoisted the man who suffered injuries to his head and hands after being attacked on a mountain during a backcountry skiing outing,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka said it dispatched a crew around 3:20 p.m. to an area about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Haines at some 1,600 feet (487 m) above Chilkoot Lake.
That’s where they found the injured man and his friends.
The crew dropped a “rescue swimmer” to check on the survivor who was conscious and responsive.
Officials praised the skiers for their quick thinking.
“The other two members in the patient’s skiing party had the proper equipment and knowledge to assist with his injuries and communicate for help in 15 degree temperatures with sunset approaching,” Lt. Cmdr. Will Sirokman, co-pilot for the case, said in a statement. “Their satellite communication device provided the precise GPS coordinates and elevation of their location.”
They group was also dressed appropriately.
“Equally important,” Sirokman added. “They had brightly colored fabric to signal the helicopter as we approached. This was absolutely crucial to us finding them in a timely manner.”
A hoist was used to lift the injured man to safety.
The man was taken to Juneau for treatment in hospital.
The other skiers made their way down the mountain on their own.
“U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka wishes a swift recovery to the survivor of a bear attack near Haines,” the Coast Guard said.
It’s not clear what kind of bear was involved in the attack.