Man mauled by bear is rescued by National Guard

Lisa Demer

A man on a guided hunting trip was mauled and nearly killed by a brown bear then rescued early Friday 35 miles north of Anaktuvuk Pass., the Alaska Air National Guard said Friday evening.

The man, who wasn't identified, received life-saving first aid from a medical professional in a neighboring hunting party and was ultimately rescued by airmen with three National Guard rescue squadrons, the Guard said in a written statement.

The North Slope Borough first deployed a rescue team but its helicopter was turned back by dense fog. The borough called troopers, who also couldn't reach the victim in the remote Brooks Range area, the Guard said.

So the Alaska Air National Guard was called out.

"The man had been suffering for approximately 36 hours with severe injuries and possible loss of life," the statement said.

The Alaska Air National Guard's 211th Rescue Squadron launched an HC-130 airplane from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The plane carried an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter crew from the 210th Rescue Squadron and pararescue teams from the 212th Rescue Squadron. They landed at Eielson Air Force Base, and around 12:30 a.m. Friday, the plane took off as did the helicopter crew, now in a Pave Hawk prepositioned there to save fuel.

"The crews were operating during the darkest part of night-time hours on night vision goggles," the written statement said. "The HC-130 had to dispense illumination flares to help the helicopter crew get through the pass and find the site and guide them back through the pass on the return."

The plane flew ahead of the helicopter to guide it through and also fueled the helicopter in the dark.

By 3 a.m., they reached the victim. The medical professional from the neighboring party had helped stem the loss of blood, and the pararescuers said he saved the man's life.

The helicopter took him to Fairbanks, where it was too foggy to land at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. So they landed at Eielson just before 5 a.m. An ambulance took him to the Fairbanks hospital.

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