As Polar Bear Attacked, Principal Shielded Kids' View

More details about the tragedy in Alaska have been revealed
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2023 1:15 AM CST
As Polar Bear Attack Unfolded Outside School, Principal Shielded Kids' View
A walkway leading into the school in Wales, Alaska, where a 24-year-old woman and her 1-year-old son were killed in an encounter with a polar bear on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.   (Chrissy Friberg via AP)

Summer Myomick bundled her baby against the freezing winds whipping off the Bering Sea and stepped outside into a blur of blowing snow. It was a short walk from the school where she had visited relatives to the health clinic about 150 yards away, but the young mother could hardly have seen where she was going—or the terror that was approaching. Myomick, 24, and her son, 1-year-old Clyde Ongtowasruk, made it just beyond the front of the Kingikmiut School in Wales, Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle, when a polar bear emerged from the impenetrable snow squall and fatally mauled them Tuesday, the AP reports. As the attack unfolded, the principal ordered a lockdown and closed the blinds so the children couldn’t see what was happening outside the entrance.

Several employees and community members left the safety of the building and tried to scare away the bear with shovels. The mauling stopped temporarily, but only when the animal turned on them, and they rushed back inside. Principal Dawn Hendrickson slammed the door in the face of the charging bear, possibly saving lives, according to Susan Nedza, chief administrator of the Bering Strait School District. “The polar bear was chasing them and tried to get in as well,” said Nedza, who received frantic calls about the attack in Unalakleet, about 250 miles away. “Just horrific. ... Something you never think you would ever experience.”

There is no law enforcement in Wales, so with the bear still outside, a call went out to community members for help. A person who has not been identified showed up with a gun and killed the bear as it continued to maul Myomick and her son. It appears the mother and toddler had no idea what was coming because of low visibility, Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel told the AP on Thursday. Kingikmiut School, like other schools in many rural Alaska Native communities, doubles as a community center. The view from its front, where the attack occurred, is an endless expanse of frozen snow and ice to the horizon.

(More Alaska stories.)

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