Recordings of emergency calls after a fatal cougar attack in Washington state last weekend detail how dispatchers calmly struggled to figure out exactly where the surviving victim was – and how worried he was about his friend.
Isaac Sederbaum, 31, of Seattle, was mountain biking with friend SJ Brooks, 32, of Seattle, on logging roads near North Bend, in the Cascade Mountain foothills east of Seattle, on Saturday when they saw the cougar following them.
Authorities said they responded appropriately by trying to scare off the cougar and even smacking it with a bike, prompting it to leave. But as they stood to catch their breath, it returned, biting Sederbaum on the head and shaking him violently before turning its attention to Brooks, who had tried to run away.
The 32-year-old biker who was killed in a horrific cougar attack in Washington State, has been identified as SJ Brooks (left). His friend, Isaac Sederbaum (right), 31, survived with injuries
Brooks, an avid biker, was mountain biking in the Cascade Mountain foothills east of Seattle when he and his friend noticed a cougar following them
Authorities said the two men did the right thing by making a loud noise and trying to scare off the animal. The cougar retreated, but came back and attacked the two men
Badly bloodied, Sederbaum got on his bike and rode to where he could get a cellphone signal. Recordings released by the King County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday and by a regional emergency service called NORCOM on Tuesday show that the first several calls failed. In one of them, Sederbaum manages to say, ‘Can you hear me?’ and ‘Help!’
The King County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher calls him back.
‘Hi, this is 911. We got a hang-up call. Everything OK?’ she asks.
‘No,’ he replies in a panicked tone. ‘I got attacked by a mountain lion, my friend did too. I don’t know where I am. I’m trying to come right down the mountain.’
‘What mountain are you on?’
‘I don’t know,’ he says. ‘I was on the logging roads …’
‘Listen to me,’ she says. ‘Listen, listen. I need you to hang up and call 911 so we can get location on you.’
When he calls back, he offers a little more information – that he’s north of North Bend – and as dispatchers try to figure out where he is with a GPS signal, he tells them he sees a car, then flags it down. ‘Can you talk to 911?’ he asks a woman in the car. ‘I got attacked by a mountain lion. My friend is up there.’
As the woman looks at a map and tries to tell the dispatcher how to reach them, Sederbaum wails in the background. ‘You’re not going to die,’ she tells him.
Sederbaum’s voice breaks as he tells another dispatcher, ‘I’m so worried about my friend.’
First responders said the cougar was standing over Brooks when authorities discovered his body. The animal was later tracked down by dogs and killed
The two men had been riding mountain bikes near North Bend when the cougar began to chase them
‘Everything hurts,’ he says.
‘I know,’ she tells him. ‘But you’re doing a really great job staying calm there.’
Another vehicle arrives – a truck with a man who identifies himself as Matt – and he gives more detail about the location and Sederbaum’s condition.
‘He’s really scared, he wants to get out of the mountains,’ he says. ‘He does have some bad lacerations, particularly on his right ear.’
The first deputy arrived at 11:19am, a little more than half an hour after the first call. It took responders an additional hour, traveling beyond a gate on the gravel road, before they found Brooks’ bike and then body.
The cougar was standing on it and fled when an officer fired a shot. Hours later, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife agents used dogs to track the cougar to a nearby tree and killed it.
The animal was determined to be underweight. A necropsy is expected to determine whether it was ill.
Sederbaum was released from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Tuesday.
The attack on Brooks was the first fatal mountain lion attack in Washington state in 94 years.
‘I got attacked by a mountain lion’: a panicked Sederbaum told 911 dispatchers according to recordings released on Wednesday, one day after he was released from the hospital
On Wednesday, nearly a week after the attack authorities released 911 calls showing first responders struggling to find the two men as Sederbaum told the dispatcher he was worried about his friend
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE APPROACHED BY A COUGAR
- Stop, stand tall and don’t run. Pick up small children. Don’t run. A cougar’s instinct is to chase.
- Do not approach the animal, especially if it is near a kill or with kittens.
- Try to appear larger than the cougar. Never take your eyes off the animal or turn your back. Do not crouch down or try to hide.
- If the animal displays aggressive behavior, shout, wave your arms and throw rocks. The idea is to convince the cougar that you are not prey, but a potential danger.
- If the cougar attacks, fight back aggressively and try to stay on your feet. Cougars have been driven away by people who have fought back.
Source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
According to the Seattle Bike Blog, Brooks was an avid biker, who co-founded Friends on Bikes Seattle to create a bike community where women/trans/femme/non-binary people of color could come together and have fun on bikes.
‘Certain cultures and certain genders aren’t associated with bicycling even though all those people do bicycle,’ Brooks said in October 2017.
According to the Seattle Times, Brooks was the director of operations at Hillman City Collaboratory and was a research assistant at William James College in Massachusetts.
Brooks’ LinkedIn profile also reveals he had been the office manager of G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood.
While living in Boston, Brooks was a manager at Boston Center for the Arts and a bicycle mechanic. Brooks received a doctorate in philosophy at Boston University in 2016.