In his 24 years with the Anchorage Fire Department, Mike Crotty had never seen injuries so traumatic. The victim, a 15-year-old girl, had been mauled by a grizzly bear while competing in a bike race. She was covered in blood, her carotid artery was damaged, and much of her body had been bitten and mauled.
“It was sudden, horrifying, and the injuries she suffered left a deep impact on all of us,” Crotty told TODAY’s Matt Lauer Tuesday from Anchorage, Alaska. “This is one of the most significant traumatic injuries that I’ve seen.”
Thanks to her courage and ability to think clearly despite horrible injuries, Petra Davis is going to be all right, said Peter Bassinger, the man who found her moments after the Sunday morning attack on a trail in Far North Bicentennial Park.
“She will recover fine, I think, eventually. It’s going to be kind of a long recovery, but she’s going to be OK,” said Bassinger, a fellow bike rider who has known Davis for much of her life.
Both riders were more than 13 hours into a 24-hour trail-bike race that had begun at noon Saturday and followed a loop through the myriad trails in the park. Bassinger told The Anchorage Daily News that he saw a bike on the side of the trail, then saw a figure covered in blood sitting in the middle of the trail. It was around 1:30 a.m., and there was enough light to navigate by in the high latitude, but not enough to see distinctly. He didn’t recognize his friend, she was so badly injured.
‘A lot of blood’
“When I first saw her, it was in a real low-light situation,” Bassinger told Lauer. “I couldn’t tell to what extent she’d been hurt. There was a lot of blood. I didn’t know what had really happened. She basically just said, ‘Bear,’ and it was pretty clear that there had been an attack.”
Though desperately injured, Davis handed Bassinger her cell phone. He punched in 911, but the phone’s keyboard was locked. She unlocked the phone for him, and he dialed the emergency number, but got a recording saying it couldn’t be reached. He tried a second time, again needing Davis’ help to unlock the phone, but had the same result. Finally, he called the event’s race director, Greg Matyas, and told him to get help.
Bassinger said he was worried that the bear was still in the area and might attack again. He picked Davis up and carried her about 30 feet down the trail, where he put her on the ground with her feet slightly above her head to fight off shock. Only as he was tending her did he realize the wounded rider was his friend and fellow rider, Davis.
Bassinger told the newspaper that EMTs on the phone told him to put pressure on Davis’ wounds to stanch the flow of blood. But because she seemed to be bleeding everywhere — she had wounds to her head, neck, chest, thigh and buttocks — he didn’t know where to press.
“Basically, [I] just held her and talked to her and tried to keep her conscious and tried to reassure her that help was on the way,” Bassinger told Lauer.
As other riders came by, he told them what had happened and to go help direct EMT crews where to go in the welter of trails.
A matter of minutes
Emergency crews responded as rapidly as they could, but EMTs and firemen had to wait for police escorts, who walked them to the site, about a half-mile from a trailhead, with shotguns at the ready in case the bear attacked again. It was some 25 minutes before they were able to get to the victim.
Scott Luna was the first paramedic on the scene and immediately assessed Davis’ condition and started to apply lifesaving first aid. “We were able to get to her in a somewhat timely matter. We were able to render lifesaving care right then,” he told Lauer.
Rescuers told the Anchorage newspaper that Davis could have lasted maybe another 15 minutes without first aid. Once first responders got to her and stabilized her, they felt confident that she would make it to the hospital and would survive.
“There wasn’t a lot of time to spare,” Crotty said. “She had claw injuries and bite injuries, and we assessed her as a critical patient.”
Davis had already undergone three surgeries by Tuesday morning, the newspaper reported, including one to repair her carotid artery. Doctors also repaired a sucking chest wound.
Organizers of the event called the rest of the bike race off while wildlife officials searched for the grizzly, which is thought to be the same one that tried to attack a jogger in the park just two weeks earlier.
During the day Sunday, bright orange signs were posted in the park warning of the presence of a dangerous bear, but the trails were filled with joggers and bikers enjoying a sunny summer day.