A mother and her one-year-old son were killed Tuesday, Jan. 17, in a rare unprovoked attack in the remote village of Wales, according to Alaska state troopers. Officials identified the victims as 24-year-old Summer Myomick and 1-year-old Clyde Ongtowasruk.
The trooper’s report indicated that a polar bear entered the community and chased multiple residents before it fatally attacked an adult female and juvenile male. The pair were walking on the street between the school and the Wales clinic around 2:30 p.m. when attacked.
The blinding snow and wind likely prevented Myomick from noticing the bear before it attacked, Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel told The Associated Press.
The mauling occurred next to the front entrance of Wales’ Kingikmiut School building, Bering Strait School District officials said. When the aggressive bear was spotted, the school principal and other employees responded quickly, ushering people into the school, locking down the building and closing the window shades, the district’s chief school administrator, Susan R. Nedza, told Anchorage Daily News.
“The polar bear was chasing them and tried to get in as well,” Nedza said. “Just horrific… Something you never think you would ever experience.”
There is no law enforcement in Wales, so officials at the school contacted nearby residents for help, AP News reported. An unidentified local resident responded and shot and killed the bear as it attacked Myomick and Ongtowasruk, authorities said.
Wales, a predominantly Inupiaq town of about 150 people, is located northwest of Nome on the western tip of the Seward Peninsula. Kingikmiut School, like other schools in many rural Alaska Native communities, doubles as a community center. Myomick’s family was temporarily living at the school while fixing electrical issues in their home in nearby St. Micheal.
State public safety officials said investigators arrived in Wales the next day, as poor weather and a lack of runway lights in the remote village had prevented them from arriving earlier. The remains of Myomick and her son were sent to the State Medical Examiner Office.
This recent attack is the first in Alaska in more than thirty years. The last fatal polar bear mauling occurred in 1990 when a man was killed in Point Lay. Biologists pointed towards starvation as triggering aggression in that polar bear, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Another attack occurred in 1993 when a polar bear broke through the window of an Air Force radar station on the North Slope and mauled a 55-year-old mechanic, who survived.
More information about the bear responsible for this week’s attack will not be available until after state Fish and Game biologists have conducted an examination.