UK & World News

  • 8 July 2014, 2:51

Polar Bear Killed Teen As He Struggled To Escape

A polar bear ripped through a teenager's tent, dragged him out and killed him as he struggled to free himself, an inquest has heard.

Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple, 17, died during a British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) trip to Svalbard, Norway, in August 2011.

The inquest heard from his father, David, who revealed he had discussed the risks of a polar bear attack with Horatio before he and 12 other teenagers set off.

The family were given a risk assessment, Mr Chapple said, which reassured them there would be trip wires, bear watches and flares to protect against an attack.

Hortatio's mother, Olivia, added: "I believed and trusted all the things they listed would happen. Otherwise I wouldn't have let Horatio go."

Sir David Steel described the incident, which took place at 7.30am and "lasted no more than a few minutes", in his report commissioned by the BSES.

He described how the bear had approached through the north-western side of the trip-wire system but none of the warning mines had exploded.

The report, in which names have been replaced with coded letters, said: "It would appear likely that the bear must have ripped open the tent on Horatio's side. It then dragged Horatio out causing serious, indeed, probably mortal wounds to his head.

"The screaming and shouts of 'bear' woke the rest of the camp.

"L2 emerged from the Leaders' tent at about the same time though not yet armed with a rifle. Horatio appeared to try and sit up or even attempt to stand whereupon the bear reared up and slammed into him. He fell to the ground. He was not seen to move again."

In the meantime, one of the group leaders tried to shoot the bear - but "on each occasion a bullet was ejected on to the ground leaving the rifle empty".

The bear then mauled the leader before being deterred by a stone and eventually shot dead.

A post-mortem examination on Horatio concluded that his death was caused by "extensive soft tissue and bone injuries to the face and neck including destruction of the right facial artery".

Sir David went on to praise the group members for their "great courage".

But he criticised the reliance on a trip-wire warning system and advised the adoption of a bear watch and an overhaul of rifle training to prevent future tragedies.

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