Horatio Chapple death: Polar bear attack narrative verdict
- 18 July 2014
- From the section England
Failures by an expedition company did not cause the death of a British teenager mauled by a polar bear in Norway, a coroner has said.
Horatio Chapple, 17, from Salisbury, died while on an adventure holiday to Svalbard with the British Schools Exploring Society in August 2011.
The Eton schoolboy was was killed by the bear as he emerged from his tent.
The coroner said neglect was not "appropriate to be considered as (BSES) failure was not total or complete".
However, Ian Singleton pointed out that the group had been missing items of equipment, including parts of the tripwire alert system.
In a statement released after the coroner's narrative verdict, the Chapple family said: "We would urge parents to question the organisations who may be taking responsibility for the lives of their children.
"Ask the uncomfortable questions and only trust if you are completely satisfied with the answers. Our solace is the 17 years of love, kindness and courage, which Horatio gave to so many of us."
Returning his verdict, Mr Singleton said Horatio had been in a tent on a snow bridge near the Von Post Glacier on 5 August when the attack happened.
The coroner said: "A polar bear was able to enter the camp shortly before 7.30am undetected as the tripwire alarm system around the perimeter of the camp had failed to activate due to a supporting post more likely than not being knocked over by the bear which caused the cartridge to move or fall out of the mine without it detonating.
"Horatio emerged from his tent and was in the act of standing up when the bear reared up and slammed down on him with its paws pushing Horatio to the ground where the bear then mauled his head, face and neck, causing the injury which lead to Horatio's death.
"At the time of the attack the polar bear was 24 years of age, hungry and in pain from bad teeth which more likely than not made it more aggressive and unpredictable."
The five-week inquest was told trip leader Michael Reid, 29, from Plymouth, Devon, tried to shoot the bear with the group's Mauser 98K.
His first attempts were unsuccessful but he was praised for managing to reload the rifle and shoot the bear despite having been attacked and seriously injured himself.
Three others were also seriously hurt before the bear was shot at the camp site, known as Chanzin Fire, where the group had been staying.
The other injured men were fellow trip leader Andrew Ruck, 27, from Brighton, who now lives in Edinburgh.
Trip members Patrick Flinders, 17, from Jersey, and 16-year-old Scott Bennell-Smith from Cornwall, were also hurt in the attack.