A pair of brothers credit their Boy Scouts training for their quick thinking when they saw their scoutmaster being attacked by a bear during a hike near a New Jersey reservoir earlier this month.
In an interview with The Daily Record of Morris County, Frankie and Vincent Lepore recalled the harrowing experience at a cave near the Split Rock Reservoir in Rockaway Township, where scoutmaster Christopher Petronino was attacked by a hibernating bear while exploring a cave off the main trails.
"I've only been training as a patrol leader for a few months but in that situation, it came in really handy," Frankie Lepore, 13, told the Record.
The brothers said that the group had gone off the trail to check out the cave, which Petronino had seen before. They told the newspaper that the animal grabbed their scoutmaster's leg, they weren't nearby and thought he was joking around. But they sprung into action when he told them to call 911.
"He started yelling, 'Somebody help!'," Frankie Lepore said. "At first I thought he was joking because he was one of those scoutmasters who jokes a lot. But then he said 'Call 911.' I wasn't that close. I was off in the distance and called 911."
Frankie Lepore could be heard on 911 calls released Monday. He was audibly shaken, but remained cool throughout the 90-minute exchange with emergency responders.
“My scoutmaster went into a cave and he says there’s a bear in the cave,” Frankie Lepore tells the dispatcher.
A few minutes later, he adds, "I think the bear’s on top of him.”
Frankie Lepore can be heard yelling to Petronino to ask if he is OK, then coordinating with fellow scouts to try to lure the bear out with food and snacks.
""I was telling everyone what to do, and kept asking Mr. Petronino if he was OK," Frankie Lepore said.
The brothers told the Record they eventually built a signal fire, which lured the bear out of the cave.
Vincent Lepore told the newspaper his first thought once they saw the bear was to run.
The scouts said they scattered after they saw the bear, and then Petronino left the cave and called 911 himself. Rescue crews got there a short time later.
Petronino was treated for nonlife-threatening injuries at an area hospital, and the brothers went home with quite the story for their parents.
"When Frankie called to tell us about what happened, he was worried we would be mad," Frank Lepore, their father, told the newspaper. "My wife and I are just so proud of the boys and how they handled themselves."
Listen to more of the 911 recordings in the video above.