It seems that the two campers who died in a grizzly bear attack in Canada’s Banff National Park made one last desperate attempt to get help.
Doug Inglis and his longtime partner Jenny Gusse, both 62, were “highly, highly experienced” backcountry campers, Doug Inglis’ uncle Colin told CBC News Tuesday. The couple had been updating him via text messages throughout their five-day trip.
Colin Inglis told the Canadian outlet the couple was able to do this thanks to a Garmin inReach, a two-way satellite communicator with GPS that allows users to text and send SOS messages in remote areas.
Colin Inglis said on the day of his nephew’s and Gusse’s deaths, he received a message that the two had not reached their final destination for the day, but were safe and setting up camp.
“They were probably making dinner and they were letting us know that they were OK,” he said.
But later that night, Colin Inglis said he received a distressing SOS from the inReach.
“The message said, ‘Bear attack bad,’” Inglis said.
Colin Inglis also spoke about what it felt like to receive this kind of message.
“That night was a start, obviously, of what’s continuing to be a grieving process. You have that notification, you know that something bad is happening. You don’t have a lot of information,” he said.
Park officials also received an alert from the inReach of a bear attack around 8 p.m. Friday near the park’s Red Deer River Valley. By the time help arrived by ground at 1 a.m. Saturday morning, Doug Inglis, Gusse and the couple’s dog were found dead, and a bear was spotted nearby.
“The response team arrived on-site at 1 a.m. and discovered two deceased individuals,” Banff National Park said in a statement on its Facebook page. “While in the area, the response team encountered a grizzly bear that displayed aggressive behaviour, leading Parks Canada staff to euthanize the bear on-site to ensure public safety.”
Colin Inglis told the CBC he believes the couple — who lived in Lethbridge, Alberta, and had been together since their university years — were unfortunately in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
“They are a couple that loved each other and loved the outdoors,” he said of the couple, who would camp at least twice a year. “And they were highly, highly experienced in being out back, whether it be serious treks or canoeing, whitewater canoeing in the North country.”
Colin Inglis said the pair was likely in their tent with their dog during the time of the attack, being that they had a habit of going into their tent to read after it got dark.
Yet, the park’s team found all three bodies outside with their tent crushed and ereaders inside. Colin Inglis also said the rescue team also found an empty bear spray canister and signs they had tried to scare the bear off.
“There was a struggle and the struggle didn’t stay in one place,” he said.