A mother and son killed by a polar bear in a remote village in western Alaska were unable to see the attack coming due to low visibility in a snowstorm, officials have said.
Summer Myomick, 24, and her one-year-old son Clyde Ongtowasruk were attacked as they tried to walk from a school to a health clinic just 150 yards (137 metres) away.
The pair made it just beyond the front entrance of the school in Wales, Alaska, just below the Arctic Circle, when the polar bear, which was camouflaged by the blizzard, emerged and mauled them.
The fatal mauling, which was the first in Alaska for more than 30 years, prompted school officials to rush people into the building when the bear was spotted.
The headteacher then ordered a lockdown and closed the blinds so the children couldn’t see the attack unfold.
Several employees and community members risked their lives and left the building to scare away the bear with shovels.
The mauling stopped temporarily when the animal turned on them and chased them back into the school, before Principal Dawn Hendrickson slammed the door in the face of the charging bear.
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Susan Nedza, chief administrator of the Bering Strait School District, said: “The polar bear was chasing them and tried to get in as well.
“Just horrific. Something you never think you would ever experience.”
As there are no police in the isolated village of just around 150 people, a call went out to community members for help with the bear still outside.
An individual who has not been identified turned up with a gun and killed the bear as it continued to maul Ms Myomick and her son.
The mother had no idea what was coming due to low visibility, according to Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Austin McDaniel.
The whaling community of Wales is the westernmost point on the North American mainland, and is located just 50 miles (80km) from Russia across the Bering Strait.
It is accessible by plane and boat, including barges that deliver household goods.
While it is not known what prompted the attack, polar bears see humans as prey, according to Geoff York, the senior director of conservation at Polar Bear International.
The bodies of Ms Myomick and her son were flown to Nome for eventual transport to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage, while samples from the bear were taken for the state veterinarian.