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Mother and son killed by polar bear in rare attack in Alaska’s Wales village

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  • Staff Report 

A mother and her young son died in an extremely rare attack by a polar bear in the village of Wales, Alaska. This marks the state’s first fatal polar bear mauling in over 30 years. The victims were identified as 24-year-old Summer Myomick and 1-year-old Clyde Ongtowasruk. Initial reports indicate that the bear was chasing several people before a resident of Wales shot and killed the animal as it was attacking Myomick and her son. The attack occurred near the front entrance of Kingikmiut School building and the bear attempted to enter the building but was kept out by the principal, Dawn Hendrickson. School officials locked down the building and drew the shades as they waited for someone to take care of the bear.

A state trooper and an Alaska Department of Fish and Game representative reached Wales on Wednesday to investigate the attack, after poor weather and lack of runway lights in Wales had kept them from flying to the village earlier. The remains of Myomick and her son were sent to the State Medical Examiner Office for autopsy. Public safety officials say they won’t be able to provide specifics about the bear involved in Tuesday’s attack until troopers and Fish and Game biologists can examine the animal.

Fatal polar bear attacks are rare in Alaska. In 1990, a polar bear killed a man in the North Slope village of Point Lay. Biologists later said the animal showed signs of starvation. In 1993, a polar bear burst through a window of an Air Force radar station on the North Slope, seriously mauling a 55-year-old mechanic.

The school was closed on Wednesday and will be open in a limited capacity for the rest of the week, with no academics, just meals and space available for counseling. A behavioral health team from the Norton Sound Health Corp. in Nome was also on its way, as part of the school district’s mental health plan for supporting students and communities after a tragedy.

The community is grappling with “crippling grief” following the tragic incident, according to Susan R. Nedza, the chief school administrator of the Bering Strait School District. “We can’t do what we’d like to do, which is turn back the clock,” Nedza said.

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