Bear shot after running into seafood processing plant

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2001

CORDOVA (AP) -- When Brian Hollinger and David Prosser, two visiting anglers from Washington state, decided they wanted to get some bear video, they had no idea things would quickly go awry.

The duo followed a small black bear wandering around at the head of the dock leading to the Copper River Seafood processing plant. The bear suddenly made a hard left, running inside the cool, dark, fish-scented plant.

When Bill Bailey, one of the owners of the plant, heard about what happened next, he could scarcely believe it.

''I was out the road (Copper River Highway) helping my son with a project and when I got back, my wife met me at the door and said, 'You'd better get down to the plant. Irenio shot a bear and three people,''' Bailey said.

It began shortly before 7 p.m. that evening. Hollinger had a small video camera. He and Prosser followed the bear, estimated to weigh about 150 pounds, and saw it duck into the doorway of the plant.

Shortly afterward, Irenio Balbin, the plant's general foreman who lives in an apartment upstairs, was told that there was a bear in the shop. He picked up his 9 mm pistol, not necessarily to kill the bear or even to shoot it, but to protect himself and perhaps make some noise, said Cordova Police Chief Ed Weibel.

It was dark in the building, and as he approached the hallway to the door the bear had come through, he started looking for a light switch. At about that time, one of the bystanders shouted that the bear was in the shadows behind Balbin.

''I think he surprised the bear and it surprised him,'' Bailey said.

Balbin turned and fired at the bear, which took off through the plant, down through the coffee room and down the back stairs where it was met by police and state troopers.

The bullet hit the floor and fragments sprayed several men standing nearby. None was seriously injured and only one sought medical attention.

The bear didn't fare as well.

When the police caught up to it behind the plant, a Fish and Wildlife Protection officer determined that it was too badly wounded and killed it.

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