Thursday, July 31, 2008
Robert VinZant Believes Divine Intervention Was The Key In Saving Abigail Sisk From Bear Attack At Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge
The story of the bear attack on Abigail Sisk at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge near Cooper Landing, Alaska was not only reported here in Alaska and back in Utah by the respective media, but also made it onto the pages of the Mormon Times.
Not because Abigail Sisk (pictured above left) is from Utah, but because Robert VinZant is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And VinZant believes his presence near Sisk at the time of the attack and the bear's reaction to him was also attributable to "divine intervention". How so?
Because VinZant's check-in at the Kenai Princess Lodge did not go as smoothly as expected. There were administrative snags. After dinner at the lodge around 11 P.M. Alaska time on July 23rd, 2008, VinZant and his daughter Andria, who had driven down from Wasilla, walked to the lodge office to check in. He remained in the office because of a room change, and to obtain a fishing license, which is not usually issued after hours. "They changed our room, and it took longer than we thought to get the paperwork filled out," VinZant said. "Everyone else had gone already. I'm thinking the timing couldn't have been more perfect for me to be there. It wasn't a coincidence".
In other words, if it hadn't been for the delays, he wouldn't have been there to intervene. And who knows what would have ultimately happened to Abigail Sisk, who was seasonally employed as a housekeeper at the lodge.
As VinZant walked out to get his luggage from his truck, he heard Sisk nearby. "I heard what appeared to be some unusual kind of laughter, but it wasn't enough to alarm me at that point," VinZant said. By the time he reached the truck, he heard a low roar and "what sounded like a big fight going on." He immediately turned around and headed toward the sound, with Andria close behind. At the top of a trail near the lodge parking lot, he saw a large brown bear on all fours, mauling Sisk. VinZant approached the bear, yelling the word "hey" repeatedly.
"The initial seeing of the bear scared me," 15-year-old Andria said. "But I think what scared me more was the tone of my dad's voice."
VinZant's yelling caused the bear to rise up to its full height, which VinZant estimated at 7 feet. VinZant stopped in his tracks, not sure if the bear would charge him. When the bear walked away from Sisk and stood on its hind legs again, VinZant began yelling again at the bear -- and his daughter -- to get back. "I thought that he relented to my aggressive behavior, so I yelled at him again," VinZant said. "He got on all fours and zipped off."
VinZant called to Andria to get his .44-caliber handgun from his truck. After doing this, she was instructed to get back to the office lodge and call 911. Soon an EMT, who also worked at the lodge, had Sisk's head bandaged and police arrived on the scene with shotguns. The bear is among many in the area, and has not been identified.
Meanwhile, Andria prayed for Sisk's recovery. "I remember praying, 'Help, help, help, please let her be OK,' " Andria said. "Heavenly Father was definitely involved." Abigail Sisk was subsequently transported to Providence Hospital in Anchorage, where she was found to have incurred a broken jaw, torn scalp, and punctured arms, legs, and buttocks. She has since been released from Providence and flew home to Utah on July 30th.
But until that night, Robert VinZant had always wondered how he would react in such a situation. "I've always questioned whether or not I could put myself in the line of fire for anybody else," VinZant said. "(The night of the attack) it wasn't even a question. I just went and did".
VinZant, a father of six, converted to the LDS Church 12 years ago. He credits his longtime member wife as being "very instrumental" in his conversion. VinZant, a 27-year Alaska resident, always attended church with her before his baptism and was offered callings before his baptism.
Devout Latter-day Saints believe that animals and even the elements of the earth themselves respond to the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood when exercised by one in proper authority. This is the same priesthood that Jesus Christ Himself used to command the waters to bear him up on the Sea of Galilee, and to perform the numerous miracles during His ministry. Upon reaching adulthood, and before being ordained to the office of an Elder, spiritually-worthy males have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon them. Thus it is possible that one of the reasons the bear ran away from him is because it sensed the presence of the Melchizedek Priesthood, and obeyed. Animals aren't stupid just because they can't talk - they have all the faculties needed to perform their designated missions in this life.