Unknown 4/97 Seward
Hiker Bear Mauling
FIND MAN'S REMAINS
Little, ADN 09/26/97
When two hikers stumbled on shredded
blue jeans and a couple of sodden daypacks atop an out-of-the-way
peak, they sensed something was wrong. But there was no blood,
If they ever saw the tiny white shards scattered
nearby, it didn't click in their minds that these splintered bones
were all that remained of what Alaska State Troopers are guessing
was a 39-year-old man, a wanderer from out of state who scribbled
reflections and weather reports in a small notebook he packed on his
Little is known about the man, who apparently kept
largely to himself. Troopers have found no friends or
family. They do know he was an immigrant from Vietnam whose
last known address was a rescue mission in North Little Rock,
If it weren't for a passport and driver's license, they
wouldn't have that much. Alaska's abundant and efficient
predators devoured his remains before the hikers discovered his
belongings Sept. 16.
Most of the clean, white bone fragments
troopers found were about the size of a quarter. The biggest
was 6 inches long, and it was splintered, said trooper Sgt. Brandon
Anderson. ''The trouble is, they had all passed largely
through a bear,'' he said. ''Several animals had been working
on what was left because (the bones) were scattered
Nobody reported the man missing, and nobody at the
Arkansas shelter remembered him, Anderson said. Until troopers
find his family, they won't release his name.
have to confirm that the bones are human, which Anderson said is
almost certain. The state crime lab in Anchorage easily can
handle that. But connecting the bones to this particular man
is a lot trickier. They hope to do so with the help of the
upper half of a denture found among the pants, shirt, leather jacket
and wallet strewn about on the unnamed 2,000-foot peak five miles
south of Seward.
If they can match those false teeth with
dental records, it would be the closest troopers could come to
They do have a good lead on relatives,
Troopers have asked the U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization Service to search for names of people the man listed
as his next of kin in 1986 when he took his oath as a U.S. citizen
in Houston, Texas.
The man appears to have traveled alone
from the Lower 48 to Seward. His journal lists St. Paul and
Seattle on April 7, Vancouver on April 9, Prince George, Canada, on
April 11 and Tok on April 13.
He jotted down temperature and
weather conditions. His last entry, on April 17, says, ''20'
clr,'' ''3/12 Noon,'' and ''Indian cottage, 6:23 p.m.'' Beyond
the observations, his notes in the 4-by-7-inch weekly planner
indicate a man struggling to understand himself.Every other page has
preprinted inspirational quotations from famous people.
Sometimes he wrote little responses. In the week of April 7, a
quote attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt says, ''You must do the thing
you think you cannot do.''
Under it, he has written in
capital letters, ''TRY HARD TO COMPLETE.'' On another page a
cursive hand reflects a belief that God still loves the sinners he
casts into hell. It concludes, ''So you have to love yourself
more than others. Therefore, you shall know how to love
someone.'' Sometime after April 17, the man took a couple of
daypacks up a steep trailless ridge through spruce, devil's club and
alder thickets before emerging above treeline into the alpine tundra
and scree. If it was in April, he would have hiked through
snow. He probably wore blue jeans, a white T-shirt and a
leather jacket. Troopers have not found his shoes. Once
atop the peak, he would have had a commanding view of Resurrection
Bay and some beautiful waterfalls along the Tonsina and Spruce creek
drainages on either side of him, said Jennifer Roy, one of two
hikers who stumbled on his remains.
Her companion, Phil
Weeks, was first to reach the top and saw soaking wet daypacks and
clothing strewn around. He also picked up a bundle of plastic wrap
that protected a passport and immigration papers.
A pair of
blue jeans near the packs was shredded, troopers said. The right leg
was torn at the knee and the left leg was ripped from the thigh
down. His T-shirt was torn and had what looks like teeth marks
on its back.
The clothing is stained, but the state crime lab
in Anchorage has yet to determine whether those stains are blood,
Anderson said. If it is blood, its amount and location may offer a
clue. If the man died before the bears got to him, he wouldn't have
bled much, Anderson said.
Troopers helicoptered to the site
and recovered bone fragments scattered in the steep scree slope
about 75 yards below the day packs. Foul play isn't suspected,
Whatever the cause of death, the area's wild
animals would have wasted little time moving in, said Gino Del
Frate, a state wildlife biologist. ''The area's loaded with
bears," he said. "It's got wolves, it's got wolverines, it's
got everything else."
In the spring, brown and black bears
wake up from hibernation, hungry, and one of the first things they
look for is carcasses of animals that died during the winter, he