ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska skier who was injured by a bear when his group accidently disturbed the animal’s den was released from a Juneau hospital.
The Chilkat Valley News reported 40-year-old Bart Pieciul was released Tuesday after sustaining injuries in the attack during a backcountry ski trip near Haines last Saturday.
Pieciul had surgery on a broken arm and will need a second surgery to remove metal pins implanted by doctors.
Pieciul and his ski partners, Graham Kraft and Jeff Moskowitz, were going up a mountainside above Chilkoot Lake when they unknowingly disturbed a bear den at an elevation of about 1,600 feet (488 meters).
Pieciul rolled down the hill during the attack and played dead until the bear left. The bear was believed to be protecting her cub inside the den.
“I followed a trail of broken ski poles and blood to find Bart in a clump and thankfully no bear in sight. As soon as he played dead, Bart said the bear took off,” Kraft said.
The experienced backcountry skiers traveled with safety gear including a device they used to alert friends to their GPS coordinates. Moskowitz also had a thermal blanket, warm water, sleeping pad, jackets and a first aid kit.
“He just kept pulling stuff out of his bag,” Kraft said. “It was like a clown car.”
Pieciul, who suffered puncture wounds, was cold and wet. Kraft made a splint from a backpack and they added layers and laid next to him.
“He was getting colder and colder but staying really positive. He was in a lot of pain,” Kraft said. “The first half hour was the most stressful, just wondering if he was going to stay with us.”
Kraft added: “Once it became clear he wasn’t going to die immediately we just started telling stories trying to keep it positive, keep him comfortable, keep him warm.”
A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter dispatched from Sitka hoisted Pieciul into the aicraft and took him to Juneau.
“The other two members in the patient’s skiing party had the proper equipment and knowledge to assist with his injuries and communicate for help in 15-degree temperatures with sunset approaching,” copilot Lt. Cmdr. Will Sirokman said.
Kraft established a GoFundMe account for Pieciul that had raised more than $32,000 by Wednesday.