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Teenager who survived 30 hours in a Tahoe forest says he prayed after his phone died

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The 15-year-old boy who hid in a Sierra Nevada forest and got lost for 30 hours after a gunman shot and killed his father has spoken out on the harrowing ordeal.

Jack Gershman was forced to take shelter in the Tahoe National Forest last Friday after a lone shooter opened fire on him and his father, Ari Gershman.

The pair had been off-roading in their Jeep for the Fourth of July holiday weekend when they stopped on a remote road to ask the man for directions. 

Ari, a doctor of internal medicine based in Danville, California, died at the scene, while Jack, who was unharmed, took off running into the wilderness.

In an interview with CBS News on Thursday, the teenager recalled the moment the shooter, who has since been identified as 40-year-old John Thomas Conway, pulled out a ‘pistol’ and shot at them. 

Jack Gershman (pictured with his mother Paige) spoke out for the first time on his ordeal in an interview with CBS News on Thursday

Jack Gershman (pictured with his mother Paige) spoke out for the first time on his ordeal in an interview with CBS News on Thursday

The 15-year-old (pictured third from left, with his family) took shelter in the Tahoe National Forest on Friday after a gunman fatally shot his father Ari (far right) when they stopped to ask for directions

The 15-year-old (pictured third from left, with his family) took shelter in the Tahoe National Forest on Friday after a gunman fatally shot his father Ari (far right) when they stopped to ask for directions 

‘My dad suggested that we ask him [gunman] for directions. The shooter pulls out a pistol and starts shooting. After two to three shots he [my dad] was hit,’ he said. 

Jack fled into the woods where he had to hike a long distance to find service to call his mother Paige and tell her they had been attacked. 

John Thomas Conway, 40, of Oroville, California, was identified by Sierra County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday

John Thomas Conway, 40, of Oroville, California, was identified by Sierra County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday

The teen sparked a massive manhunt after he got lost in the forest while his phone was at one per cent battery.  

‘When my phone died, I had really nothing to do, so I prayed,’ Jack told CBS. 

Authorities located him 30 hours later, covered in bug bites, but unharmed. 

The Sierra County Sheriff’s Office said Jack had traveled a ‘considerable distance.’ 

‘We all just screamed and hugged and cried,’ his mother Paige told the news station.

‘It was that relief, and we knew that he was okay, but then it was the reality that Ari was not.’

Authorities on Wednesday identified Conway as the suspect and he is currently waiting to be charged.

Jack said he hopes the alleged shooter ‘spends the rest of his miserable life in jail.’

The gunman is accused of shooting two others in a separate incident hours before Gershman was shot. Police have described the rampage as a ‘random act of violence’.

Conway was finally arrested after an hours-long search on Saturday that resulted in an officer-involved shooting, the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office said.

Father-of-three Gershman (pictured with his wife and family) was traveling with his son (far left) Jack in Tahoe National Park when he was shot. The 15-year-old fled into the woods and was finally able to get through to rescuers with just 1% battery power on his phone before he spent more than 30 hours in a Sierra Nevada forest

Father-of-three Gershman (pictured with his wife and family) was traveling with his younger son Jack (far left)  in Tahoe National Park when he was shot. The 15-year-old fled into the woods and was finally able to get through to rescuers with just 1% battery power on his phone before he spent more than 30 hours in a Sierra Nevada forest

Dr Ari Gershman

Gershman 'was 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,' according to the GoFundMe page

Conway allegedly shot and killed Dr Ari Gershman (pictured) ‘an avid bicyclist, a vegetarian, an outdoorsman, an internal medicine doctor,’ on a remote road in Sierra Nevada on Friday 

Officials from at least six different law enforcement agencies embarked on a massive manhunt for the suspect after receiving reports of a shooting in the Poker Flat area on Friday afternoon. 

Gershman, had been off-roading in his Jeep with his son Jack, 15, in Tahoe National Forest, when they stopped on a remote road to ask Conway for directions.

The suspect, who was driving an ATV, allegedly open fire ‘out of nowhere’, hitting Gershman, who immediately collapsed and died at the scene. 

The teenage boy then fled into the forest to take shelter and was forced to survive alone 30 hours before he was rescued.

Authorities said they located Jack, who was able to call 911 after hiking to find cellphone reception, despite him traveling a ‘considerable distance.’

‘Even though the juvenile had fled the shooting and spent the night alone in the forest, he was in good physical condition and did not require medical attention,’ officials said in a press release. 

According to a family member, Jack (center) called 911 before calling his mother, Paige around 5.30pm. During the call, Jack told his mother: 'Dad's been shot and I think he's dead and I'm running away, uphill and I don't know where I am'

According to a family member, Jack (center) called 911 before calling his mother, Paige around 5.30pm. During the call, Jack told his mother: ‘Dad’s been shot and I think he’s dead and I’m running away, uphill and I don’t know where I am’

‘After giving him some food and water, officers transported him to the Sheriff’s Office, where he was reunited with his mother.’ 

Hours later, authorities located Conway after he failed to stop at a checkpoint on Saddleback Road and allegedly tried to run over two wildlife officers. 

A third officer, who was down the road, attempted to block his vehicle as he drove away, resulting in a collision. 

Officers then opened fire on the gunman and deployed a K-9, before taking Conway into custody, the sheriff’s office said.  

Authorities said none of Conway’s victims were known to him and the Sierra County District Attorney plans to announce charges on the suspect ‘soon.’   

In addition to his son, Gershman is survived by two other children, Evan, 16, and Maci, 10, and by his wife, Paige (pictured together), who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, according to the GoFundMe page

In addition to his son, Gershman is survived by two other children, Evan, 16, and Maci, 10, and by his wife, Paige (pictured together), who is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, according to the GoFundMe page

Gershman and his son were attacked near Downieville, California – a remote area 80 miles northeast of Sacramento and 55 miles west of Reno, Nevada.  

Ari’s cousin, Marlo Meyers-Barer, told the San Francisco Chronicle, that the man started shooting ‘out of nowhere’.

‘Ari stepped on the gas to get out of harms way, but one of the shots ripped through the seat and hit him. He was able to get the Jeep stopped so Jack was able to run into the forest to hide,’ Meyers-Barer said. 

Meyers-Barer said Gershman collapsed and died from the gunshot wound at the scene. 

Just before the shooting, Gershman’s wife, Paige, who was diagnosed six weeks ago with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, had sent a text to her husband letting him know that she received promising test results. 

She had previously been tracking their progress on the trip using her phone. 

Because her husband is a doctor, Paige said she thought it was odd he didn’t respond.  

According to Meyes-Barer, Jack called 911 before calling his mother, around 5.30pm. 

During the call, Jack told his mother: ‘Dad’s been shot and I think he’s dead and I’m running away, uphill and I don’t know where I am.’

While it's unclear exactly where Jack was found, this map depicts the whereabouts of Jack and his father before the shooting and where the gunman was arrested

While it’s unclear exactly where Jack was found, this map depicts the whereabouts of Jack and his father before the shooting and where the gunman was arrested

Jack then explained that it had taken him an hour to climb to find signal for his cell phone, which was only at 1 per cent battery power when he made the call. Jack was found in good condition on July 4 in Tahoe National Forest (file image)

Jack then explained that it had taken him an hour to climb to find signal for his cell phone, which was only at 1 per cent battery power when he made the call. Jack was found in good condition on July 4 in Tahoe National Forest (file image) 

Jack then explained that it had taken him an hour to climb to find signal for his cell phone, which was only at one per cent battery power when he made the call. 

Meyes-Barer and Paige drove four hours to Downieville, and on the way received messages Jack had tried to send earlier in the day.

Meyers-Barer said: ‘He said he was sorry and to tell his brother and sister he loved them. And he loved his mom. It was gut-wrenching.’ 

When they arrived, deputies at a sheriff’s office broke the news that Gershman had been found dead and Jack was still missing. 

Rescuers contacted network provider AT&T to help track pings on Jack’s phone despite it being out of battery power.  

Jack (pictured with siblings) fled and called police to say he was lost, according to the Sierra County Sheriff's Office

Jack (pictured with siblings) fled and called police to say he was lost, according to the Sierra County Sheriff’s Office

It took about five hours for authorities to extricate Jack from the forest and he was covered in bug bites because he was only wearing shorts and t-shirt. 

He told authorities that he was able to get water from a stream he came across while walking in the forest. 

There was no immediate word on a motive for the shooting of Gershman.

Gershman ‘was 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,’ according to a GoFundMe page which is raising money for the family. 

‘He was witty and wise. He died doing what he loved with his son in an area he had hoped to retire in one day.’

In addition to his son, Gershman is survived by two other children, Evan, 16, and Maci, 10, and by his wife, Paige. 

Paige is currently undergoing chemotherapy for the Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, according to the GoFundMe page.

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