Jack Gershman spent 30 hours in the woods after escaping his dad's killer.
An off-roading trip in the Tahoe National Forest, near Downieville in California, was supposed to be a great day for dad, Ari Gershman and his 15-year-old son, Jack Gershman. But things suddenly turned grim and traumatic for the boy as he witnessed the murder of his father.
The 46-year-old Ari, who was a physician and a pharmaceutical agent, was shot in a senseless gunning incident which he didn't survive, reported KRON 4. Jack, shocked by the whole ordeal, ran for his life into the wilderness which marked the beginning of a game of survival he never wanted to be a part of.
“My dad suggested that we ask him for directions,” Jack Gershman told CBS News Thursday. “The shooter pulls out a pistol and starts shooting.” https://t.co/oVi2Q3qX8z— Maria Bonanno (@MariaBonanno9) July 10, 2020
The boy spent 30 hours in the wild forest fearing for his life as he waited for the rescue team. He saw helicopters fly past him as he stood waving his hands, but the dense forest hid his cries for help and he thought he would never come out of it alive.
Back home, Jack's mother Paige Gershman was getting more and more worried as she didn't hear from either her husband or her son. That fateful day, July 3, at around 4 p.m she sent a text to Ari, who was deceased by then. She didn't receive any response. “I texted Jack, and I said, 'Are you guys okay?' And I didn't hear back from Jack, either. So I started to get worried, but not too worried because I knew they were so far out that they probably didn't have a signal,” she said.
While waiting for one of them to respond, Paige received two texts from her son, Jack at around 5:30 p.m that was horrifyingly similar to the movie "Blair Witch Project". Talking to People, she said, "The first was just woods, very Blair Witch Project, and I'm like, 'They're messing with me,'” But the second video made any doubts that Paige had vanish immediately.
"He was talking about how he's in the woods, doesn't know where he is, needs help," she recalled and added, "I immediately called him. I said, ‘Where's Dad?' and he said, ‘He was shot. He's dead.' I couldn't wrap my head around it. I told him, ‘I need to get to you,' but I didn't even know who to call. He could be anywhere in four counties. His battery was dying. I was panicked."
Jack after escaping his dad's killer and running into the woods, he spent the night in the cold covering his legs with his t-shirt to avoid insect bites. He also made dozens of videos that he sent to his mother. According to Paige, they were his farewell videos.
“They're basically goodbye videos,” she said. “In one of them, he’s like, 'I don't think I'm going to make it out of here, and I just want you to be happy and prosper, and try to smile and remember me as the happy-go-lucky kid I was,'” she added.
Overcoming all odds, the strong 15-year-old boy survived. He was able to dial 911 after climbing a nearby hill that allowed the rescue team to start their search for the boy. Talking to People, recalling his ordeal, Jack said, “When I got high enough, I looked at my phone and it had one bar, so I called the police, and it went through.”
The authorities asked him to stay where he was and the following day the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with their dogs Beedo and Champ, who're trained in human tracking, was assigned to find the traumatized boy. At around 4 p.m while Beedo alerted the authorities of some faint noise, Champ caught a human scent. They found Jack near a stream on his way towards a dam where he had seen lights the previous night.
“He was strong,” said Fish and Wildlife Captain Patrick Foy. After the boy was rescued, an ATV just like the one Ari's killer was in, attempted to ram a police checkpoint. After a cat and mouse chase, the driver and suspect, John Thomas Conway, 40, was arrested and was charged with Ari's murder, attempted murder, burglary and firearms crimes. He has yet to enter a plea.
Reunited with her son, Paige is grateful for all the love and support she has been receiving from family and the community. The fund being raised through the GoFundMe page for the family has been especially "overwhelming" for her.
“He always tried to help people,” said Jack remembering his dad and added, “knowing that makes me feel more like his life is more complete, like he was successful in the time he had."