A mother from Paris, Texas, was mauled to death by a black bear in a remote park in British Columbia as her two children watched helplessly.
A man who tried to save Patti McConnell, 37, also was killed by the bear. McConnell’s 13-year-old son and a college student were mauled by the animal but survived.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Raymond Kitchen, 56, of Fort Nelson, B.C., was killed while trying to save McConnell. Kitchen is believed to have been an experienced hunter who was familiar with the habits of bears.
Hikers who witnessed the attack Thursday night at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park threw rocks and sticks to try to distract the bear without avail.
Authorities said McConnell had been walking through the brush between hot springs with her son Kelly and daughter Kristen, 7, when the vicious attack occurred.
The bear was shot and killed by a tourist who rushed to get a weapon.
The park was evacuated soon after and will remain closed while provincial officials and police investigate.
Kelly McConnell and a 20-year-old Calgary man suffered serious injuries and were airlifted to Fort Nelson, 125 miles southwest of the park near the British Columbia-Yukon border.
McConnell was later transferred to B.C. Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.
The Calgary man, one of several university students conducting research in the park, suffered leg injuries and was transferred to a hospital in his hometown Friday.
The dead woman’s mother, Jan Reed, said her daughter was planning to settle in Anchorage, Alaska, and was traveling with her children on a meandering route from Paris through the United States and Canada.
“They were going up there to make a new life for themselves,” she told the Vancouver Sun newspaper as she prepared to visit her grandson in the Vancouver hospital.
Provincial officials said it was the first fatal bear attack in British Columbia this year. Six people were injured and one person was killed by bears in the province last year, while there were 11 injuries and two deaths in 1995.
The chances of being attacked by a black bear remains extremely rare, said Matt Austin, large carnivore specialist with the provincial Environment Ministry.
Authorities have not determined whether the attack was predatory or defensive. Predatory attacks usually occur in remote areas where bears have little contact with people.