Europe

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Alarm held together by paper clips on fatal polar bear trip

Cahal Milmo

Published 08/07/2014|02:30

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Horatio Chapple died after an attack by a polar bear caused 'mortal wounds' to his head, according to an independent report into the tragedy during an Arctic adventure holiday. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire
Horatio Chapple died after an attack by a polar bear caused 'mortal wounds' to his head, according to an independent report into the tragedy during an Arctic adventure holiday. Photo: Family Handout/PA Wire

Paper clips were used to improvise a tripwire alarm system that failed to work when a British schoolboy was dragged from his tent and mauled to death by a polar bear during an Arctic expedition, according to an independent report.

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Horatio Chapple (17) was on an adventure holiday to the Norwegian Island of Svalbard, 600 miles north of the mainland, in August 2011 when the 250kg bear entered the camp where the group of 80 youngsters slept.

The report by a retired High Court judge, commissioned by the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) which organised the expedition, found that even if the alarm had been functioning properly it would not have provided enough time for the group's leaders to ensure those under their care were safe from attack.

David Steel found that a "bear watch" by sentries should become the norm in such expeditions and recommended that rifle training for expedition leaders be overhauled following several failed attempts to kill the animal during the incident.

Wounds

Mr Steel 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 wounds to his head.

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

Mr Steel found a number of failings had contributed to the tragedy. The retired judge found that the group's only line of defence on the day of the attack, which happened at about 7.30am, had been the "defective" alarm system of wooden stakes with a spring mechanism linked by fishing line, which was supposed to fire blank shotgun cartridges if disturbed.

Mr Steel said he had the "gravest doubts" that the system supplied to the BSES expedition was either "fully equipped or properly installed".

Edward Watts, the chairman of BSES, now known as British Exploring, said it had now introduced a mandatory bear watch at all its camps and had helped develop a new alarm system.

The inquest continues. (© Independent News Service)

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