THE Alaskan gold prospector who miraculously survived a bear attack and hid in his cabin for a week has spoken out about his ordeal – saying he’s learned his lesson and won’t be venturing off alone anymore.
Longtime summer miner Richard Jessee was riding his ATV on July 12 when he saw a brown bear barrelling towards him.
Jessee, who had attached a trailer to his ATV as he neared the Big Four Creek near the Casadepaga River in Solomon, Alaska, said the brown bear jumped right on top of him.
“The bear came out of nowhere,” he told The Nome Nugget. “It rolled my bike and the trailer over like it was a toy car. I was in shock and hypothermic.”
Because he was hauling a heavy trailer, Jessee couldn’t escape the bear’s attack.
Instead, both his ATV and trailer – and his cell phone – quickly sank to the bottom of the river.
Jessee managed to fire a shot at the bear quickly enough to escape the bear’s swatting.
HIDING FOR DAYS
He made his way to his cabin, where Jessee said the bear attempted to find his way in through the cabin walls, windows, and doors.
“There was no doubt about it: the bear was trying to get into my cabin,” Jessee said.
“I don’t know why it was so aggressive. Maybe it had cubs nearby.”
The miner hid in his cabin for several days waiting for help, even placing a piece of plywood reading “SOS” on his roof.
“I wasn’t sure of the days; I was in shock,” Jessee said, adding the bear would leave and return, keeping the miner awake for days.
It wasn’t until a Coast Guard helicopter flying overhead saw Jessee’s sign and rescued him four days later.
But even that was the luck of the straw.
Lieutenant Commander Jared Carbajal was flying the copter for a mission in Nome on July 16 and decided he wasn’t going to take the usual route due to cloud concerns.
“We were flying near a lot of old mining sites, and my copilot noticed a guy waving at us,” said Carbajal.
“He was waving two hands over his head, and that’s usually sign of distress, so we turned to fly over to check it out and make sure he was okay. As we came up, we noticed on top of his roof, he had painted ‘SOS HELP ME.’”
“We had no idea he was there. We just happened upon him on our way to another mission,” Carbajal said.
“Had he waved with just one hand, we probably would have just kept going. The fact that he waved with both hands over his head is indicative of distress, which is what prompted us to circle around.”
Assistant Adam Carr stepped out of the copper and checked on Jessee, who said “I’ll remember that man’s face forever.”
“It was traumatic, but I’m glad somebody was looking out for me.”
Jessee was transported to a local hospital to check for injuries, but all he suffered were a couple of bruises.
“The big lesson here is that I shouldn’t go out by myself,” Jessee said, adding he’s seen as many as 25 bears near his cabin. “I’ll never do that again. I’m a very lucky man.”
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