A Bellevue City Council member, John Chelminiak, was mauled by a black bear Friday night while walking at least one of his dogs near his vacation home at Lake Wenatchee, according to the Chelan County Sheriff's Office.
A Bellevue City Council member, John Chelminiak, was mauled by a black bear Friday night while walking at least one of his dogs near his vacation home at Lake Wenatchee, according to the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office.
Chelminiak, 57, suffered injuries to his upper body, face and head. After being airlifted to Seattle, he underwent surgery at Harborview Medical Center, where he was in stable condition Saturday evening, according to fellow council member Grant Degginger.
With the help of tracking dogs, agents with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife found and killed the bear about three hours after the attack. The bear, a female, was about 10 years old, Degginger said.
The attack occurred around 8:30 p.m. Friday. Chelminiak had left the family’s vacation cabin at Lake Wenatchee’s Lakeshore Drive to walk one or both of the family’s dogs. After about 15 minutes, Chelminiak’s wife, Lynn Semler, went outside and heard someone yelling, “Bear, bear,” according to Degginger.
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The cries were coming from Chelminiak, who had been injured and was trying to warn his wife.
Semler saw the bear near the family’s cabin. She turned on lights and the bear took off, Degginger said.
After Semler called 911, an ambulance took Chelminiak to Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee. He was airlifted from there to Harborview.
The couple’s 11-year-old daughter was with them at the cabin. They also have another daughter, in college. Both of the family’s dogs were unharmed.
Word of the attack spread fast among Chelminiak’s colleagues.
“It’s a huge shock,” Kevin Wallace, a fellow Bellevue council member, said Saturday. “It’s obviously a big concern for all of us on the council.”
Another council member, Claudia Balducci, wrote in an e-mail: “This is a shocking, horrible thing to have happened, and our family’s thoughts and prayers go out to John and his family.”
Degginger went to Harborview and visited with Chelminiak’s wife for much of the day Saturday. He said Chelminiak came out of surgery Saturday afternoon and was expected to remain in the hospital for several days.
“It was a nasty attack,” Degginger said.
Chris Foreman, a sergeant with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office, described the attack as exceptionally rare. “I asked some of our guys who have been up here 20 years,” he said, and none could recall a single other bear attack on a human in Chelan County during that time.
Chelminiak was first elected to the Bellevue City Council in November of 2003 and served as deputy mayor for two years ending in 2007. He previously worked as a chief of staff for both the King and Snohomish county councils, and had once worked as a reporter and manager at KIRO-AM radio.
Ken Armstrong: 206-464-3730 or firstname.lastname@example.org