ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An annual Father’s Day mountain trail race took a tragic turn for an Alaska family when their teenage son was mauled and killed by a large black bear.
The 16-year-old was one of dozens of teens competing in the 1.5-mile race through heavily-wooded terrain along Bird Creek Trail.
While running, the teen got separated from the group and sent a text to his mother, who was also participating in the race, stating that he was being chased by a bear.
At the bottom of the trail, another teen came sprinting toward race officials, saying they saw a bear circling the boy in thick brush.
Without any weapons, a group of runners and spectators raced back up the trail to try to save the teen, but by the time John Weddleton found him, it was too late.
“I heard something above me and thought maybe that’s him. The bear came by me, maybe about ten feet away, and then I saw him. No motion. He looked awful,” Weddleton told KTUU-TV. “Pray for that family,” Weddleton said.
Authorities from multiple agencies arrived to airlift the teen’s body.
“How do you respond as a parent when you hear news like that? It’s devastating, it’s tough,” Anchorage Police Sgt. Nathan Mitchell said. “The terrain was really, really rugged, to the point where we only sent down a team of six. The officers went down, very guarded, and located the victim,” Mitchell said.
Authorities did manage to find and shoot the bear, however, it fled back into the woods and could still be alive.
Witnesses say the black bear was large in size.
Black bears can grow up to six feet long and weigh up to 600 pounds.