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Bear Sweeps N.Y. Infant Out of Stroller, Killing Her

Monday, August 19, 2002

FALLSBURG, N.Y. — A bear killed an infant Monday afternoon as it tried to drag the girl into the woods, officials said.

The baby, Ester Schwimmer of Brooklyn, was snatched out of her stroller by the bear at the bungalow colony, police said. Fallsburg is about 70 miles northwest of New York City.

Isaac Abraham, a community leader from Williamsburg in Brooklyn, said witnesses told him the 5-month-old girl was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital upon arrival.

The baby was in a stroller in front of the porch with members of her family, said Mike Fraser, a state Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman. The bear grabbed the stroller and the child, Fraser said.

The child was knocked out of the stroller and the bear tried to drag her into the woods, Fraser said.

Her father was able to get the infant away from the bear, which reportedly ran up a tree. A short time later, DEC officers and police shot the animal.

The black bear was being taken to the DEC's laboratories outside Albany, Fraser said.

Abraham said people at the colony desperately tried to save the girl. "People started chasing the bear, throwing rocks at it," he said.

The attack happened in the heart of what is known as the Borscht Belt, which beckoned to tourists and big name stars in the post-World War II era. Big hotels and bungalows attracted thousands of visitors each summer, many of them Jewish families from New York City. Scattered bungalow colonies still remain.

The Williamsburg community in Brooklyn was in shock Monday, Abraham said.

The baby's grandfather is Mendel Schwimmer, who is active in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Kiryas Joel.

"The governor knows the man," said Michael McKeon, Gov. George Pataki's chief spokesman. "At the appropriate moment, the governor will be reaching out to call him to express his condolences."

Ward Stone, the state's chief pathologist, said the bear would be examined. "Obviously, we'll be pursuing a rabies test at the earliest time," he said.

It was the first time in 34 year that Stone could remember a black bear killing a human. Black bears are the only native species in New York.

Stone said one bear from the Catskills tested positive for rabies in the recent past, the only time he has found rabies in that species.

"In all my many years, 34 summers, we've had them eat birdseed, get into trouble eating dog food in people's yards, but black bears are just not noted for attacking humans," Stone said.

Copyright 2002 Standard & Poor's

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