Polar bear kills British teenager and mauls four others at remote Norwegian camp


Click to follow
The Independent Online

A 17-year-old Etonian who dreamt of becoming a doctor was named last night as the victim of a polar bear attack in northern Norway that left him dead and four others seriously injured.

Horatio Chapple was part of an Arctic expedition by British teenagers which turned to tragedy yesterday when a polar bear tore through their camp and mauled him to death.

The early morning attack on the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard took place near the Von Postbreen glacier, a popular site with tourists and scientists.

The victims were part of an 80-strong expedition of teenagers and young adults from the British Schools Exploration Society, a Kensington-based charity that specialises in sending youths on demanding challenges.

Every year it organises five-week trips to Svalbard where teenagers help conduct experiments for scientific researchers. The youngsters are expected to raise their own funds to cover the £3,000 costs.

Edward Watson, the chairman of BSES, confirmed last night that Horatio had been killed in the attack and that his parents, who live near Salisbury, Wiltshire, had been informed.

"Horatio was a fine young man who wanted to go on to read medicine after school," he said. "By all accounts he would have made an excellent doctor."

The injured were named as team leaders Michael Reid and Andrew Ruck – both of whom are thought to be in their late twenties – as well as two teenagers, 16-year-old Patrick Flinders from Jersey and Scott Bennell-Smith.

Survivors were taken by helicopter to the nearby town of Longyearbyen and later flown to the Norwegian mainland for further treatment. They were said to be suffering from moderate to severe injuries.

"We got a call via satellite phone from a British group of campers that there had been a polar bear attack and that one person was dead and that others were injured and they needed assistance," said Liv Asta Odegaard, spokeswoman for the Governor of Svalbard. "There are no roads in the area so we scrambled a helicopter."

The attack is the second tragedy to hit the remote archipelago in the last fortnight. Flags across Svalbard were already at half mast in memory of Johannes Buoe, 14, the second youngest victim of last month's massacre at Utoeya by Anders Breivik.

Although maulings by polar bears are not unusual on Svalbard, fatalities are rare. According to the local tourism board, only four people have died there in polar bear attacks since 1971.

An estimated 3,000 polar bears make their home in and around the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, with many mothers choosing to raise their cubs inside caves. Most stick to the islands' northern and eastern edges.