July 30, 2013

Maine victim of polar bear attack still recovering

Attorney Matthew Dyer of Turner has not yet regained his ability to speak, his wife says.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

MONTREAL — The legal assistance attorney from Turner who was attacked by a polar bear in a Canadian national park last week continues to recover from his injuries, although he has not regained his ability to speak.

click image to enlarge

This photo shows a view of the Nachvak Fjord in the Torngat Mountains National Park in Labrador, Canada. Maine resident Matthew Dyer was camping in this national park, near the Nachvak Fjord, when he was attacked by a polar bear Wednesday, July 26, 2013.

Photo courtesy of National Parks of Canada

Matthew Dyer, a staff attorney for Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Lewiston, is recuperating at Montreal General Hospital from the attack during a Sierra Club trip in Torngat Mountains National Park, at the northern end of the Labrador peninsula.

Dyer's wife, Jeanne Wells, said Dyer's neck is being kept immobilized to ensure that his fractures remain stable.

"He has a broken jaw and a temporary breathing tube to ensure that his airway stays open despite all the swelling in his neck area, which prevents him from talking at this point," Wells said in an email.

"His sense of humor is intact, and his gratitude to all who have sent love and good wishes is great," Wells said. "Both of us want to thank everyone for their kindnesses."

Dyer was attacked while he slept in a tent at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. A park official said one of the many polar bears that inhabit the park at this time of year apparently broke through a portable electrified fence designed to protect campers.

It was the first polar bear attack in the park since it opened in 2005.

The Sierra Club issued a statement Monday about the attack.

"On July 24, a participant on a Canada backpacking trip in Torngat National Park, Labrador, was attacked by a polar bear, and suffered bite wounds and broken bones," Tony Rango, the club's director of national outings and program safety, said in the statement. "The Sierra Club will be cooperating fully with local authorities and park officials in the official investigation, and we will not release further details about the incident until the investigation is completed."

The club commended park officials for their work evacuating Dyer from the park. The six other hikers in the party were not injured, the club said.

Dyer's colleagues at Pine Tree Legal Assistance, where he specializes in tenants' rights, also issued a statement Monday.

"Matt is a tenacious and determined fighter, which are qualities that will serve him well in his recovery," the legal aid agency said. "He is an extraordinary advocate for his clients, very compassionate and dedicated."

Wells said the incident should be characterized as an attack rather than a mauling. The bear attacked primarily with its mouth, and it dropped Dyer as his hiking companions fired flares to scare it off.

Dyer, and a doctor who was a member of the party and treated him, were flown by helicopter from the park to northern Quebec, from where Dyer was flown to Montreal.

The rest of the hikers were evacuated by boat and have visited Dyer in the hospital, Wells said.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:


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