'Beautiful and compassionate', family describes Anchorage woman killed by a bear

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) She was beautiful and compassionate who lived her brief 27 years to the fullest.

Erin Johnson, Courtesy Abe Schmidt
Erin Johnson, Courtesy Abe Schmidt

Erin Johnson was attacked and killed by a black bear near Pogo Mine while doing field work on Monday.

“I broke my back seven years ago and she was one of the first people that went Nordic and alpine skiing with me,” said Ira Edwards, friend of Johnson.

Johnson was just that type of person, a caring and kind friend who loved to be outdoors.

“She was super nice and she was probably as outdoorsy as any of the guys I know,” said Edwards.

Johnson graduated from Chugiak High School where she was a talented athlete. She represented the United States as a member of the Junior Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 2006 and 2007, the family said in a statement.

Johnson went to the University of Montana and University of Alaska Anchorage to become a geologist and botanist, her family says she had a deep appreciation for the nature she loved to explore.

On Monday, Johnson and co-worker Ellen Trainor were collecting geological samples as employees at ABR about five miles from Pogo Mine when a black bear attacked.

Trainor was able to deploy bear spray when the bear attacked her; she was rescued by a mine helicopter after calling for help on a radio.

Johnson was killed.

Another mine employee returned to the scene and shot and killed the bear with a rifle.

Just two weeks before Johnson had gotten married.

"Erin's wonderful energy, quirky sense of humor, dedication, sparkle, generosity, and talent touched everyone she knew, and left them all the better,” Erin’s family said in a statement.

It was the second of two fatal black bear attacks in the span of 24 hours in Alaska.

The Department of Fish and Game are investigating the maulings to determine whether they were predatory in nature.

FULL JOHNSON FAMILY STATEMENT:

Erin was a beautiful, compassionate, and passionate person-- who lived her brief 27 years to the fullest. Being outside, exploring wild and remote places with her best friend and husband Abe, her parents Barb and Steve, and her extended family of friends and loved ones was one of her favorite joys.
A life-long Alaskan, Erin grew up in the mountains, especially those behind her parents' home in Chugiak. A talented and tenacious athlete, she represented the United States as a member of the Junior Olympic Nordic Ski Team in 2006 and 2007.
She explored more corners of the state through personal and work trips than most people could ever dream up in a lifetime. A geologist and botanist by training, she studied at the University of Montana and University of Alaska Anchorage and had a deep scientific appreciation for the nature she loved to explore. She skied, pack rafted, mountain biked, and backpacked her way around Alaska and the world.
Erin's wonderful energy, quirky sense of humor, dedication, sparkle, generosity, and talent touched everyone she knew, and left them all the better. Her passions extended to gardening, playing her violin, making art in many forms, a love of board games, foraging, and preserving the bounty she harvested.
Erin's family and friends request that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent The Erin Johnson Memorial Fund, established to support two of Erin's most cherished values-- connecting youth with the outdoors and conserving Alaska's wild places. Donations can be made
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