Rescued Girl From Cougar : Hero’s Award Recalls Man’s Terror in Park

Times Staff Writer

Seven months had passed and he was beginning to forget all about it, Gregory Ysais Jr. of Mission Viejo said Thursday.

“Then I find out the news this morning, and it all kind of came back,” said the 36-year-old electronics technician.

The news was that Ysais was one of 19 people in the United States and Canada honored for their heroism by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Each honoree will receive a medal and $2,500 in cash.

But what came back to Ysais was the memory of 5-year-old Laura Michele Small of El Toro in the jaws of a mountain lion at a southern Orange County wilderness park. The “really bloody” sight cost him sleep for a long time afterwards, he said Thursday.


The blond, blue-eyed youngster had been carried off by the cougar last March 23 at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park near San Juan Capistrano. Ysais, drawn by the screams of the girl’s mother, confronted the lion. By shouting and swinging at the cougar with a tree branch, Ysais forced the cat to drop the child and flee.

Laura survived the attack but still suffers from partial paralysis and lost sight in one eye. Since then, a second child has been attacked by a mountain lion in the park, suffering injuries that required more than 100 stitches.

“There’s no ceremony,” said Ysais (pronounced ee-SIGH-iss). “I think everything’s done by mail. That’s OK with me. I’m not much for speeches.”

Ysais said he has no specific plans for spending his $2,500 cash award. “It’s getting pretty close to Christmas,” he said. “It’ll probably go for that.” Among others honored by the commission was Darryl Lindsay Curran, 33, of San Diego, who saved two boys from their burning car in Escondido on Oct. 2, 1985.