Two dead, two injured in bear attack
Fort Nelson man dies in heroic attempt to save tourist

by Arthur Milnes
Northern News Services

FORT SIMPSON (Aug 22/97) - Fort Nelson, B.C.'s Raymond Kitchen died as he lived -- helping others.

Kitchen, 57, was killed trying to save 37-year-old Patti McConnell of Paris, Texas, from a horrific bear attack in Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park Wednesday.

Despite Kitchen's bravery, McConnell was mauled to death in front of the eyes of her 13-year-old son, Kelly, who was also attacked while bravely trying to save his mother.

Witnesses say the bear turned on Kitchen, attacking him and killing him while witnesses tried in vain to save him.

According to a police report, a kick made the bear withdraw into the bush.

It then came upon four university students who turned and ran. A 20-year-old Calgary student slipped and was attacked.

Police said the bear was shot while in the midst of this attack.

The student, along with the young victim, are currently in hospital recovering from their wounds.

The black bear was described as mature and underweight. An autopsy will be conducted on the animal.

In Fort Nelson, Kitchen's wife, Angel, fought back tears as she described a man who never failed to help others.

"If somebody needed help, he was there," she said Monday, fighting back tears. "One of his faults was that he helped so much."

"I think to myself: 'I wish he'd run away. I wish he hadn't jumped in.'"

Having said that, Kitchen also said that this desire to help others was what made her husband so special.

Family friend Patty Adamson said that Kitchen, who owned Arctic Small Engine Repairs in Fort Nelson, was quite an outdoors person.

"He was involved in the junior forest wardens, he liked to snowmobile and fish and camp," she said.

Adamson said that Kitchen had been working in the park and had stopped at the springs with his daughter when the incident occurred.

"It (working in the park) was an opportunity to spend time with his daughter," she said. "They stopped at the springs and he heard it happening. He told his daughter to stay where she was and then he went in."

"That was the last time she saw him."

Adamson also said that her friend's bravery didn't surprise her.

"Had Ray not done something like that, he would not have been able to live with himself," she said. "He was a hero ... I think he's the kind of guy we all wish we were."

The Kitchens had moved to northern B.C. in the early 1970s.

Fort Nelson RCMP also praised Kitchen and others on the scene in a written statement.

"A number of people present that evening acted in a heroic manner," they said. "Mr. Kitchen was one of these people and made the ultimate sacrifice. Those who intervened and assisted with medical treatment are to be commended for their efforts."

Fort Nelson RCMP Cpl. Scott Morrison said he and his staff will be meeting in the coming days to consider honoring the bravery showed in this attack.

In Paris, Texas, Paris News managing editor Bill Heankins said McConnell's death has shocked his city of 25,000.

He said the bear attack has been a subject of discussion all over the city since word reached Texas of the tragedy. And it's meant the story has been picked up by America's national media.

"It's such a hard thing for people around here to understand, a bear and all," he said. "She was troubled and trying to go to Alaska to get her life together after a divorce."