- Associated Press - Monday, January 4, 2016

ROCKAWAY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) - A 13-year-old Boy Scout who helped save his Scout leader from a bear attack says he thought it was a joke until he heard the man’s pleas for help and sounds from the bear.

Frankie Lepore was part of a small group hiking at Split Rock Reservoir two weeks ago when Christopher Petronino stopped to show the boys a cave. He dipped into a crevasse leading to it, and the black bear grabbed Petronino and yanked him inside. He hit the bear twice in the head with a rock hammer, pulled his sweatshirt over his head and curled into the fetal position.

Frankie said he thought Petronino was joking until he heard the bear. The Scout leader told them to call 911.

“I thought this was a serious situation - he might not make it alive if we don’t do something,” Frankie told WABC-TV.

The boys called for help as they threw food toward the cave to try to lure the bear and made a signal fire in order to be found by rescuers. When the bear emerged, a dog that had come along with the group began barking and the bear ran away.

Officials said Petronino spent about 80 minutes inside the cave before he was able to escape. Emergency personnel arrived soon afterward and airlifted Petronino to a hospital, where he was treated for his wounds. Wildlife officials have said they don’t perceive the bear as a threat and won’t try to capture it.

Frankie said he felt like a hero because he helped save someone’s life.

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