Lt. Cmdr Jared Carbajal says that in his 12 years as a Coast Guard helicopter pilot, an incident last Friday was the first time he was flagged down by somebody in need of rescue—and the man at a remote mining camp certainly needed it. The injured man told rescuers that a grizzly bear had harassed him for a week and had attacked him days earlier. "At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river,” Carbajal tells the New York Times. "He had a pistol. He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in a few days." The door had been ripped off a shack at the site 40 miles outside Nome, and the man had written "SOS" and "help me" on the roof. There was no cellphone coverage at the site and the man had no other way of calling for help. Officials say he was down to his last two rounds of ammunition.
The helicopter crew took the man to Nome, where he was treated for a leg injury and bruising to his chest, Alaska Public Media reports. The man had been at the site since July 12 and friends reported him overdue when he didn't return to Nome on schedule, the Coast Guard said in a press release. It's not clear how the man, believed to be in his late 50s or early 60s, made his way to the mining camp. Carbajal says his co-pilot spotted the waving man after they changed course by a mile to avoid clouds. They landed because he was waving with two hands—the international sign of distress. "If we would have been in the next river valley over, we would have totally missed him," Carbajal says. (More Alaska stories.)