BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. - When friends Linda Carter and Cherrie Giles booked a three-day retreat in a remote cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains, the proprietor told them not to be startled by the roar of lions and bears from the exotic-animal training center nearby.
The women fell asleep to the roars the first night, but on Tuesday they were startled by a different sound - an urgent yell. About 30 minutes later, sirens wailed as paramedics rushed to an animal trainer who had been bitten on the neck by a 700-pound, 71/2-foot-tall grizzly bear. Stephan Miller, 39, died at the scene.
On Wednesday, friends and neighbors tried to make sense of the attack, which from all accounts involved a well-trained and gentle bear and an experienced animal trainer.
'We heard a man yell; it was like he was yelling for help,' Giles said of the attack. 'We knew something was going on, but we didn't know what it was. Our dogs were going crazy.'
Harry Morse, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, said Miller was killed by the 5-year-old bear during the making of a promotional video for Randy Miller's Predators in Action center. The bear's fate has not been decided.
The bear, named Rocky, recently appeared in the Will Ferrell sports comedy 'Semi-Pro.' Center owner Randy Miller, the victim's cousin, was a stunt double for Ferrell in a wrestling match with the bear. The center's animals have appeared in many other movies, documentaries and TV shows, including 'Gladiator' and 'The Last Samurai.'
The remote Predators in Action campus is tucked off a private, rutted dirt road high in the snow-capped San Bernardino Mountains, a two-hour drive northeast of Los Angeles. Its only neighbors are a few vacation cabins and a campground.
Yellow police tape blocked the narrow trail leading to the animal cages on Wednesday.
Just up a rutted dirt road, Matt Wilson, 18, said Randy Miller came to his parents' house after the attack for comfort. Wilson said Miller told the family they had been filming an advertisement when the bear attacked.
'They were filming it and the bear started licking his (Stephan Miller's) face and then all of a sudden it just bit him,' Wilson said. 'He was just really upset and didn't know why it happened.'