On August 19th 1996, 36-year old Canadian Cindy Parolin set out horseback riding in the Simikameen, around 30 miles north of Princeton, British Columbia. She was accompanied by her three children: David, 13, Melissa, 11, and Steven, six. The group were planning to ride out to a cabin to meet Parolin’s husband for a camping trip.
Partway into the ride, the horses appeared to become increasingly nervous. The cause was revealed when a cougar burst from nearby undergrowth, darting straight for Parolin’s youngest son. The cat’s initial rush missed Steven, landing on the neck of his horse. After slipping off the mountain lion attacked again, this time pulling off his shoe. The sudden attack resulted in Steven’s horse bucking him off, with the cat immediately attacking the youngster once he hit the ground.
Completely unarmed, Parolin nevertheless jumped down off her own horse, broke a heavy limb from a fallen tree, and battered the cat off her son. The cougar halted its attack on Steven and turned on her, opening up a severe slashing wound on her forearm. Cindy then wrestled the cat to the ground, ordering her two older children to take the injured Steven and run for help.
All four horses had bolted after the initial appearance of the cat, forcing David and Melissa to carry their younger sibling over a mile back down the trail to their car. While Melissa stayed with Steven, David ran to a nearby campground to find help. Camper Jim Manion agreed to accompany him, with the two setting off back in Manion’s truck. The older man was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun.
By the time they arrived at the scene, it had been over an hour since the cougar had first attacked. Incredibly, Parolin was still alive and fighting, although she had been severely mauled and dragged into nearby undergrowth, the cougar still on top of her. Friends later told the press how Parolin was extremely fit, and they feared that the cat had spent much of the hour wearing her down with darting attacks before overpowering her.
Manion threw rocks to distract the cat, resulting in it switching its attention towards him. While his gun initially jammed, he was able to back up and chamber a shell, shooting the cougar just as it sprang at him. It immediately fled into nearby bushes, and was later found dead 150 yards away.
Rushing to Parolin, the mother’s only question was whether her children were safe. On being told that they were, Manion described her visibly relaxing, before telling him that she was dying. Despite loading her into the pickup and racing to Princeton General Hospital, she was pronounced dead on arrival. Steven made a full recovery, although needed more than 70 stitches to his scalp, which the cougar had almost completely ripped away.
Cynthia Louise Corlett-Parolin was posthumously awarded the Star of Courage the following year to honour her bravery by the Governor General of Canada. Over 600 mourners attended her funeral, including Jim Manion. The Cindy Parolin Safe Home Program was set up in her name, providing help and support to women and children who have experienced domestic violence.