After his father was shot, Jack Gershman, 15, was able to escape and ran into the woods, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt


California physician and pharmaceutical executive Ari Gershman and his 15-year-old son Jack were off-roading in Tahoe National Forest when the duo stopped to get their bearings. Ari suggested they ask the driver of a blue ATV that pulled up behind their Jeep "from out of nowhere" for directions, Jack recalls to PEOPLE.

They were about to ask the driver for directions when gunshots rang out and hit Ari, who fell out of the Jeep fatally wounded.

Jack was able to escape and he took off running into the woods, wearing only shorts and a t-shirt.

"I tried to call the police, but I still couldn't get cell reception," he says in this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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Jack knew he needed to climb upwards in order to get a cell signal to get help for his father.

"I was able to get a bar of cell reception, and then I called the police," he says.

They told Jack to stay put and they’d send helicopters.

ari gershman
Ari Gershman
| Credit: Courtesy Gershman Family

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But soon after Jack called 911, around 6 p.m., his phone battery died.

The sheriff sent out helicopters, but “they didn’t end up seeing me,” says Jack, who was covered in mosquito bites as he curled up beside a bush and tried to sleep.

“A few times I'd wake up because I had a dream of a helicopter coming and getting me, but every time I got into the helicopter I'd wake up again,” he says.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife teams with Beedo and Champ that helped track Jack
| Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

What Jack didn’t know was the sheriff's department arranged for K-9 teams trained in human tracking from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to track Jack the following morning.

gershman family
Credit: Smeeta Mahanti

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Around 4 p.m., on July 4, the teams found Jack. "I heard people calling for me and just followed their voices and ended up getting rescued," Jack says.

beedo and champ
Beedo and Champ
| Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Not long after, a blue ATV attempted to ram a police checkpoint, and after a chase, driver John Conway, 40, was arrested and later charged with Ari's murder, attempted murder, burglary and firearms crimes.

Back home, the outpouring of love and help from the family's community, including help through a GoFundme page, has been “overwhelming,” says Jack’s mom, Paige.

“We're just overwhelmed with how kind people are,” she says.

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