PROVO A fatal bear mauling of an 11-year-old American Fork boy might have been avoided had county officials posted signs warning campers of the danger.
That's what Samuel Ives' family is saying through two lawsuits, filed today against the U.S. government and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, as well as the state of Utah and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
"The state of Utah was negligent ... in that if failed to warn potential users of the campground where Sam Ives was killed of the imminent danger of a so-called 'Level III' nuisance black bear," the family's attorney, Allen K. Young, said Friday in a statement to the media.
Ives, 11, was killed Sunday, June 17, 2007, when he was dragged out of his family's multi-room tent and mauled by a massive black bear.
The pain is multiplied, however, because the family found out later that the same bear had lumbered through the American Fork Canyon campground two days earlier, swatting at a tent and stealing food from other campers.
"If there wasn't an attack the night before, we wouldn't be here arguing it," said Kevan Francis, Ives' natural father, who had not gone camping.
"Sam wanted to go camping," said his mother Rebecca Ives, tears on her cheeks. "The tent was a Father's Day present for Tim, and he insisted that we go (camping) on Father's Day. He loved the wildlife."
Late that night, the family heard some rustling, then realized the 11-year-old boy who had been sleeping in a separate wing of the tent was missing.
They heard him scream, but couldn't find him outside, and were worried he had been abducted, because the slash in the tent looked like it had been from a pocket knife, said Ives' step-father, Tim Mulvey.
Nearly two hours later, police searchers and the family found the boy's body about 400 yards from their camping spot about a mile above the Timpooneke campground.
"(Officials) had two different chances to warn them," Francis said.
Allen said Rebecca Ives and Mulvey, plus Sam and his 7-year-old brother Jack, passed a Division of Wildlife Resources truck on their way up American Fork campground. They believe it was the same officials who had been looking, unsuccessfully, for the bear.
"They just waved at us," Rebecca Ives said, becoming emotional.
After the first reported attack, officials looked for the bear for several hours, but gave up before finding it, and failed to warn others, the lawsuits allege.
However, after Samuel Ives was killed that Sunday, officials found and shot the bear in the shoulder, but couldn't catch him until noon on Monday. DNA tests confirmed that it was the bear that attacked Ives.Young said the state has sent a letter denying the allegations and calling the incident a "natural occurrence" because it was a bear. The federal government has not responded, Young said.