Abigail Sisk was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Luckily for her, Robert VinZant was in the right place at the right time.

VinZant rescued Sisk from a bear that had her head in its jaws at the Kenai Princess Lodge near Anchorage, Alaska, on July 23. The Mormon father of six scared off the bear, saving Sisk's life.

"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 said he believes divine intervention took place for him to be nearby when the attack occurred. After dinner at the the lodge, around 11 p.m., VinZant and his daughter, Andria, 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 are 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."

As he 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.

When he and Andria had almost arrived at 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 to be at 7 feet. VinZant stopped in his tracks, not sure if the bear would charge him or not. 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 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 up and police arrived on the scene with shotguns. The bear is among many in the area, and has not been identified.

As things calmed down, Andria prayed for Sisk's recovery.

"I remember praying, 'Help, help, help, please let her be OK,"' Andria said. "Heavenly Father was definitely involved."

Sisk, who is from Ogden, was recovering in the Providence Hospital in Anchorage from a broken jaw, torn scalp, and punctured arms, legs and buttocks.

VinZant had the chance to visit her in the hospital with Andria two days after the mauling.

"They were overjoyed and thanked me for being a crazy nut and running after a bear," VinZant said. "It's good she has such a strong personality. Even something like this didn't get her down."

VinZant converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 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 he joined the church.

Andria's perspective on her dad has changed due to last week's heroics.

"I think he's totally nuts," Andria said. "I can honestly say I probably would not have been able to do that."


E-mail: amarshall@desnews.com