Teen Found Alive in California Forest 30 Hours After Gunman Kills His Father

Gershman family
GoFundMe

The family of a missing teen lost for more than a day in the Sierra wilderness is finally breathing easier after the boy was found alive and safe on Saturday. According to reports, the details surrounding Jack Gershman's 30-hour ordeal read like something out of a thriller novel, after he somehow escaped the clutches of a gunman who ambushed him and his father during a camping trip. However, Jack's long-awaited rescue over the weekend was bittersweet after it was learned that his dad, Ari Gershman, did not survive the attack.

  • The father and son were off-roading through Tahoe National Forest in northern California when they became lost.

    "My dad suggested that we ask [the man] for directions," Jack told CBS News. 

    But that's when the man ambushed them.

    "The shooter pulls out a pistol and starts shooting," the 15-year-old recalled. "And then, after two or three shots, [my dad] was hit."

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  • The teen ran from the car to avoid getting shot but soon found himself alone and lost deep within the forest.

    Luckily, Jack had a cellphone with him and was able to call local police and report that his father had been wounded. He also called his mother, Paige, who thought she was getting an update about the father-son camping trip but instead received heartbreaking news.

    "I said, 'Where's Dad?'" Paige told CBS News. "And he's like, 'He's been shot.' And I said, 'What do you -- what do you even mean?'"

  • As the minutes and then hours ticked by, the situation grew more dire.

    By the time Jack had felt safe enough to call, his cellphone battery was dwindling and he barely had reception, which made his location harder to track. He told reporters that at that point, there was nothing else he could do but pray.

    He continued praying as the day turned to night. Finally, on Saturday, rescue came.

  • Thanks to the help of a K-9 unit, Jack was finally found on the Fourth of July and reunited with his family.

    It was a happy moment for his mother Paige, but also a heart-wrenching one.

    "We all just screamed and hugged and cried," Paige said. "It was that relief, and we knew that he was okay, but then it was the reality that Ari was not."

  • Ari died after being shot by the gunman.

    That same gunman is also believed to have ambushed two other people in the nearby area, though their injuries were not fatal.

    According to the Sierra County Sheriff's Office, a suspect was later detained and identified as 40-year-old John Thomas Conway. His motive still remains unclear, though for Jack, nothing could ever justify what was taken from him.

    "I just hope he spends the rest of his miserable life in jail," Jack told CBS News.

  • For now, the Gershmans are trying their best to pick up the pieces and remember Ari for the loving dad that he was.

    On a GoFundMe page set up for the family, Ari was remembered as "an avid bicyclist, a vegetarian, an outdoorsman, an Internal Medicine Doctor, a devoted and loving father and fantastic friend that was willing to drop anything for his friends and family."   

    "He was witty and wise," the page continued, adding that he "died doing what he loved with his son in an area he had hoped to retire in one day."

  • Speaking with CBS News, Paige -- who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer -- described her husband as humble, smart and generous.

    "He was all about helping others, and just so funny and kind," Paige shared. "He's just my best friend."

    In addition to Jack, the loving husband leaves behind a 16-year-old son named Evan and a 10-year-old daughter named Maci.

    The GoFundMe page created in his memory has raised more than $479,000 thus far toward funeral expenses, chemotherapy costs, and future counseling for the Gershmans. If you would like to donate, you can do so here.