CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – The 6-year-old girl killed by a black bear was a nature lover and had made many visits to the mountaintop swimming hole where the animal attacked her, her mother and 2-year-half brother, relatives said Monday.
Relatives of Elora Petrasek met with reporters for the first time since she was killed near the pool at the base of a waterfall on a 1,800-foot mountain in the Cherokee National Forest of southeast Tennessee.
"We are very familiar with this area, very familiar with being out in nature," her father, Robert Petrasek, 37, of Sarasota, Fla., said after reading a statement thanking rescuers and doctors. He said the family previously lived in southeast Tennessee.
Elora, of Clyde, Ohio, was attacked Thursday afternoon. The bear also bit 2-year-old Luke Cenkus, puncturing his skull, and went after the children's mother, Susan Cenkus, 45, who tried to fend off the animal with rocks and sticks. Mother and son remained hospitalized Monday and doctors said they are expected to recover.
Wildlife officers caught and euthanized a black bear they believe is the one that attacked the family.
The bear's body was sent to the University of Tennessee's College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville, where a necropsy was planned to determine if it was the attacker.
Elora's half brother, Christopher Dennison, 23, said the two children and their mother had come to Tennessee to see him perform in a musical program at nearby Lee University, where he is a student. He said his mother "would have gladly given her life" for the children.
"That was our favorite place to go for recreation, and so we never had any fear of being there," Dennison said.
He said the family is eager to learn if the bear being examined in Knoxville was the one that killed Elora.
"My hopes are it is the bear," he said. "We don't hold any animosity toward the animal."