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Black Bear Kills Texas Woman, Canadian Man

August 17, 1997|From Associated Press

LIARD RIVER, Canada — A mother from Texas was mauled to death by a black bear in a remote park in British Columbia as her two children watched helplessly.

A man who tried to save Patti McConnell, 37, of Paris, Texas, also was killed by the bear. McConnell's 13-year-old son and a college student were mauled by the animal as well but survived.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police said Raymond Kitchen, 56, of Fort Nelson, British Columbia, was killed while trying to save McConnell. Kitchen is believed to have been an experienced hunter familiar with the habits of bears.

Hikers who witnessed the attack Thursday night at Liard River Hot Springs Provincial Park threw rocks and sticks to try to distract the bear without success.

Authorities said McConnell had been walking through the brush between hot springs with her son, Kelly, and daughter Kristen, 7, when the attack occurred.

The bear was shot and killed by a tourist who rushed to get a weapon.

The park was evacuated soon after and will remain closed while provincial officials and police investigate.

Kelly McConnell and a 20-year-old Calgary man suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were airlifted to Fort Nelson, 125 miles southeast of the park near the British Columbia-Yukon border.

Kelly was later transferred to British Columbia Children's Hospital in Vancouver.

The dead woman's mother, Jan Reed, said her daughter was planning to settle in Anchorage, Alaska.

"They were going up there to make a new life for themselves," she told the Vancouver Sun newspaper as she prepared to visit her grandson in the Vancouver hospital.

Provincial officials said the incident was the first fatal bear attack in British Columbia this year. Six people were injured and one person was killed by bears in the province last year, while there were 11 injuries and two deaths in 1995.

The chances of being attacked by a black bear remain extremely rare, said Matt Austin, large-carnivore specialist with the provincial Environment Ministry.

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