Note: This story has been updated. See below.
A helicopter from Air Station Sitka medevacked two wilderness guides from Sitkoh Bay Thursday afternoon (Thu 8-18-16), after they were mauled by a brown bear while leading a hiking expedition. The guides are crew members aboard a 74-passenger cruise vessel, the Wilderness Explorer, which is operated by UnCruise Adventures.
According to Christopher Austin, the rescue swimmer on the flight, the female guide, who was in her thirties, was leading a tour of 20-people along Sitkoh Creek Trail when the attack occurred.
“The first tour guide was up front. She didn’t have any bear spray or protection from wildlife on her, but the guide that was in the back of the group did. And unfortunately there was about 20 people between them. When the attack happened, he ran up to the front. All the other people took off. He sprayed the bear as it was mauling the first victim and was able to get it off of her. There were some wounds inflicted on him that were rather minor. After that the bear took off.”
Austin says it appears the bear was a sow protecting her cubs. The Coast Guard said the victims sustained “multiple injuries and severe lacerations.” They were transported to Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka. Austin says that although the woman was not ambulatory, she was alert and able to describe her injuries to her rescuers. On Friday (08-19-16), a spokesperson with UnCruise Adventures told the AP the woman was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for further treatment. Sitkoh Bay is 30 miles northeast of Sitka.
UPDATE 8-21-16: UnCruise Adventures emailed KCAW to inform us that both guides involved in this incident were equipped with bear deterrent and trained in its use, however the lead guide did not have time to deploy it. The company is “grateful for the swift action of the Coast Guard in the medevac.”