The teenagers were doing everything right, just as they'd been taught during their 24 days at Alaska's National Outdoor Leadership School: They were yelling to alert bears in the area of their presence as they crossed a river in a single file line. Then: "Bear! Bear!" yelled Joshua Berg, 17. The snarling grizzly rushed them—it "came really fast," which is "super unusual," says the program director—and before they had time to pull out their bear deterrent spray, the angry creature was upon them. Though they had been taught to play dead in such a situation, "natural instincts" took over instead, says Sam Gottsegen, 17: The boys ran.
The bear pounced on Berg, then Gottsegen. "I thought: 'I'm going to die,'" he tells the AP. Then the bear left, but came back and continued mauling the teen and three of his friends, leaving only three in the group uninjured. The whole attack likely lasted less than a minute, Gottsegen estimates, adding that none of the group saw a cub—though authorities believe a cub's presence was what caused the bear to be aggressive. When it was over, the teens once again used their survival skills to tend to the injured, and activated their emergency beacon around 9:30pm. Rescue arrived by 3am to airlift the teens out. Only Berg remains in serious condition, and his condition is improving. (Read more bear stories.)