By Joe Beck
MIDDLETOWN -- A bear attack Thursday sent a man visiting the George Washington National Forest to Winchester Medical Center with serious wounds.
Eddie Richard, the owner of Richard's Fruit Market on Middle Road, said the victim, who was driving a Subaru station wagon, pulled into the fruit market's parking lot at about 1 p.m. The driver and a dog seated next to him were covered with blood, Richard said.
"He was really bleeding out, " Richard said of the driver. "He had a huge open gash on his forearm."
A news release from the Frederick County Sheriff's Office identified the victim as Steven Krichbaum, 59, of Staunton.
"Krichbaum was visiting the wooded area of the George Washington National Forest located in the Hardy County, West Virginia side of Route 55. As Krichbaum and his dog were walking in the woods, he came upon a black bear and two cubs. The black bear in response to Krichbaum and his dog's presence responded by attacking them. Krichbaum and his dog attempted to fend off the attack and were subsequently injured," according to the release.
Krichbaum and his dog were able to get to his car and drive away.
Richard, his wife Nancy and a friend, Cathy Patterson, gave the following account based partly on information provided by the victim.
Krichbaum was weakened from loss of blood by the time he arrived at the fruit market. Nancy Richard and Patterson tried to stop the bleeding with towels and a bandanna while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
The victim had been trying to reach the hospital but was having trouble finding it when he drove into the fruit market's parking lot.
His wounds included a hole about the size of a 50-cent coin that was torn into one of his upper thighs and scratch marks.
"He had claw marks and gashes," Patterson said.
The dog, a yellow Labrador mix named Henry, was also suffering from wounds, mostly to one of his hind legs.
Krichbaum said the dog saved his life by attacking the bear while he kept striking it with a rock.
He was taken to Winchester Medical Center after being treated at the scene for about 25 minutes by an ambulance crew. The dog was taken for treatment to the Frederick County Esther Boyd Animal Shelter.
The interior of the victim's station wagon and the pavement around it were stained with blood. The vehicle bore an Indiana license plate. The man said he had been staying with his sister in Staunton.
Michael Williams, a public information officer with the National Forest Service in Roanoke, said authorities were still trying to learn what had happened in the attack.
Fred Frenzel, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, said he knew the victim but refused to give his name.
"As far as unprovoked bear attacks on humans, around here anyway, I've not heard of any," Frenzel said. "It's extremely rare."
Frenzel said female bears travel with cubs born in January or February at this time of year, a circumstance under which humans have sometimes been attacked when encountering them in remote, forested areas.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org