The program the boys were participating in was being run by The National Outdoor Leadership School.
The school said in a statement that the mauling occurred around 8:30 p.m. Saturday as the teenagers were crossing a creek in a remote area about 45 miles northeast of Talkeetna. There were no instructors with the group, which was on the 24th of a 30-day backpacking course to learn about teamwork and wilderness-related skills, according to the Wyoming-based program. That is a good cost saver – no instructors.
The teens told state troopers that they were crossing the river in a line when the bears attacked. Those in front got the worst of the assault.
From ages 16 to 18 and from all around the country, the boys said that they followed protocol in calling out to warn the bears and carrying bear spray, according to the wilderness program.
Afterward, the group set up a camp, provided first aid and activated a personal locator beacon, which is used to alert authorities about one’s whereabouts in an emergency.
A helicopter was then dispatched, tracking the beacon’s signal and finding the teens in a tent around 2:45 a.m. Sunday, said state troopers.
The rescuers then determined that two of the victims were too hurt to be safely transported by the helicopter for medical aid. A state trooper stayed on the scene, helping tend to those two as well as a third boy who was in the best condition, while the others were flown out for treatment at Mat-Su Regional Hospital in Palmer.
Four hours later, around 6:45 a.m., a better-equipped aircraft arrived to fly out the most seriously injured to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, about 150 miles to the south.
A state trooper on Sunday flew around the area, trying to locate the bears responsible for the attack. What was he going to do if he found them? Straff them from the air? What was their crime? Wandering around in their natural habitat?
Seven other National Outdoor Leadership School students, as well as three instructors, had been in the Alaska wilderness at the time of the attack and were unaware of the mauling, the state police said. The outdoor leadership school said these 10 people have since been located and “are in the process of being evacuated by helicopter.”