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Good Samaritan helps Skilak Lake bear mauling victims

Skilak Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.
Skilak Lake in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 7:54 PM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 12:29 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU)- Jamie Nelson, a Kenai area resident, was camping at the Upper Skilak Lake Campground on the Kenai Peninsula with his family last week. On that trip, he ended up coming to the aid of a pair of campers who were mauled by a bear.

“Our site was really close to the water,” Nelson said.

He said in the early morning hours of June 12, he woke up to the sounds of a whistle blowing, along with cries for help coming from outside his motorhome.

“The first time I heard it, I kind of woke up and wondered ‘Did I really just hear what I heard?’ And then it happened a second time and it woke my wife up,” he said.

When Nelson heard the sound for a third time, that’s when he said decided to jump into action.

“I put on a lifejacket, grabbed bear spray, and I headed down to the boat launch since we decided that’s where the distress call was coming from,” he said.

Nelson said after finding a man and a woman in distress and talking to them, he learned they were both mauled by a bear near Hidden Creek in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and had paddled in a kayak for six miles in an effort to reach the Upper Skilak Lake Campground to get help.

“They had lacerations to (their) arms and legs, and they needed an ambulance,” he said. “For everything they had been through, they seemed extremely composed.”

Nelson said he then tried to call 911 despite not having any service bars on his cell phone.

“I dialed 911 just to verify if I had service or not, and even though there were absolutely no bars, the emergency call immediately went through,” he said.

At that point, he said the campground host along with other campers stepped in to offer assistance.

“We just kept them warm, calm, and comfortable, and let them know that help was on the way,” Nelson said.

First responders arrived a short time later. Nelson said he’s impressed at how well prepared the two kayakers were.

“They had a product called QuikClot, so on one of their more critical wounds they were able to slow the bleeding,” he said. “Before they made the trip, they checked the forecast and saw that the lake was gonna be calm. They’re clearly very well-prepared survivalists and that played a huge part in them being able to do what they did to get out of there safely.”

The next day, a friend of the two campers went to the campground to retrieve their items, thanking Nelson and spreading some good news.

“He said they were doing well, and he was optimistic they were gonna recover, and he looked me right in the eyes and said ‘Thanks. You know, we have living friends,’” Nelson said. “When he said that, I got a little teary-eyed. I just don’t know that this situation could’ve turned out better than that.”

Officials haven’t yet publicly released the names of the two victims.

After the incident, authorities temporarily closed Hidden Creek Trail to the public.

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