August 18, 2013

Man injured by polar bear returns to Maine

Matthew Dyer, who spent three weeks in a Montreal hospital after the attack, is scheduled for jaw surgery Monday.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

The Maine legal aid lawyer who was attacked by a polar bear in northern Canada last month is back home in Maine and scheduled for jaw surgery Monday.

Matthew Dyer, shown in Montreal General Hospital

Jeanne Wells photo

Matthew Dyer flew into Lewiston on Tuesday night by air ambulance, his wife, Jeanne Wells, said in an email over the weekend. The couple now are back at their home in Turner after Dyer spent three weeks in a Montreal hospital.

Dyer is a staff attorney with Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Lewiston, specializing in tenants’ rights.

Dyer was traveling with a group of six other hikers on a Sierra Club excursion in Torngat Mountains National Park, in northern Labrador, when he was attacked.

Polar bears are common in the park at this time of year. The carnivorous predators can reach 1,000 pounds. They hunt seals on the sea ice, but during the brief two-month summer, the ice is gone and the bears stay on shore.

The July 24 attack was the park’s first ever.

The group had been in the park for three days and was camping near the Nachvak Fjord. Despite an electrified fence designed to keep bears out, a polar bear broke into camp and grabbed Dyer in his mouth at 1:30 a.m. as the hikers were sleeping.

One of the others in the group, Dr. Richard Isenberg, said the bear dragged Dyer 50 yards, holding him in his mouth without letting him touch the ground.

Dyer could easily have died in the encounter, but others in the party scared the bear off with flares and it dropped Dyer. Isenberg was able to provide first aid until a rescue helicopter arrived about six hours later. The group had been unable to communicate with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s telecommunications center until 6:30 a.m., five hours after the attack.

When the helicopter arrived to evacuate Dyer and Isenberg, who was treating him, there were still bears in the area. Dyer was flown by helicopter to a base in northern Quebec and eventually by fixed wing aircraft to Montreal.

The rest of the group was evacuated by boat and reunited with Dyer in Montreal.

Dyer had been recuperating in Montreal General Hospital since then.

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

dhench@mainetoday.com

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