Bay Area teen returns home after bear attack

July 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A Bay Area teenager is out of the Alaskan wilderness and back home in Richmond. Victor Martin, 18, survived a grizzly bear attack. It happened in the Talkeetna Mountain Range about 120 miles north of Anchorage, where the bear attacked a group of teenagers participating in a survival program.

Victor received a scholarship to attend the wilderness survival course offered by the Wyoming-based National Outdoor Leadership School, or NOLS. He's been growing up in Richmond's notorious Iron Triangle District and prior to this he had never even been camping.

Victor attends the Richmond Leadership School, where he was one of six students chosen to receive $4,000 scholarships for NOLS programs.

"I was prepared for it," said Victor.

Victor says the grizzly bear that attacked him in the Alaskan wilderness was enormous.

"Easy, 8 to 9 feet, by 900 pounds. After it finished with one, it stood up and looked for another person and went and got him," said Victor.

Victor would be next, so he took off running.

"It was terrifying, but prayer helps," said Victor.

The grizzly quickly closed the gap. Victor fell down and the bear began mauling his feet, but Victor landed one in a flurry of kicks that may have saved his life. Victor said his kick landed "right in the middle, square in the face."

The bear ran off and Victor was left with his survival training to give first aid to his injured friends.

"He helped himself and then he came back for the other children," said Victor's sister, Carnisha Martin.

They waited eight hours for help. Two teens were severely mauled. It was the 24th day of a 30-day survival coarse and the instructors had left the teens in the wilderness by themselves.

"I felt comfortable going out in the middle of the woods by myself with six other students and I had no problem with it," said Victor.

Victor returned to a fried chicken dinner at home, where until this past weekend, his skills were limited to urban survival skills while growing up in Richmond's Iron Triangle District. This experience has transformed him.

"There's nothing I can't handle," said Victor.

Tonnette Martin, Victor's grandmother, waited for him to come home on Monday. ABC7 spoke to her before Victor arrived and told us, "He's ready to come home. He was having some pain in that leg where he was mauled at."

Victor will be a pretty popular student when he returns this fall as a senior. Even after this traumatic ordeal, his principal still recommends the outdoor program.

"We had three students participate the year before and came back as incredible leaders on campus. So I think it's an incredible opportunity for them," said Shawn Benjamin, the Richmond Leadership Principal.

"You're hiking, 10, 11 hours a day, uphill," said Victor's cousin Armani Jones.

Martin's 15-year-old cousin recently left a NOLS program in Wyoming after just six days.

"It seemed cool to go camping, but after a while sleeping in tents and eating outside and having to do everything outside, I realized I don't like it no more," said Jones.

Despite what happened to Victor and his fellow campers on this particular trip, the principal at the Richmond Leadership School says she is still a strong supporter of the NOLS wilderness program and would not hesitate to recommend the program to a student in the future.

A NOLS spokesperson told ABC7 there will be a thorough review of the Alaska incident with the goal of managing risk, while still achieving the educational aims of the program.

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