AN EXPEDITION company has been cleared of neglect after an Eton schoolboy was mauled to death by a polar bear.
Andrew Ruck, from Brighton, was one of two leaders on the tragic British School Exploring Society (BSES) trip to Norway in 2011 in which 17-year-old Horatio Chapple was killed.
The five-week inquest heard the group had been missing items of equipment including a tripwire alert system.
Coroner Ian Singleton, said BSES hadn’t acted with neglect"neglect" as failure was not “total or complete”.
The teenager, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, was sleeping in his tent when the bear went on the rampage, inflicting fatal injuries on the morning of August 5.
Four others were injured in the incident, including Mr Ruck, who charged at the rampant bear and threw rocks at it.
Giving evidence at the inquest he described being woken up by the sound of rifle fire.
He said: “I then remember Spike [leader Michael Reid] or I opening the tent to see the polar bear there.
“He [Reid] tried to fire the rifle four times, bullets emptied out. He shouted: ‘It’s not working’ and then the bear came over to him and knocked him to the floor. I just charged towards the bear, shouted and picked up rocks and threw them at its face.
“I remember the bear then attacked me and knocked me straight to the floor, its paws were on my shoulder, I remember seizing its face. It swiped my face with its claw and my head ended up in its mouth at some point.
“The bear left me.”
The inquest heard their tripwire system worked “inconsistently”"inconsistently" and had missing parts with group members having to modify it with paper clips.
They were also supposed to have pen flares but a shortage meant only the leaders were equipped.
In his narrative verdict, Mr Singleton said the tripwire was not “100% foolproof” but that the modifications most likely improved it.
He also said the flares would not have prevented Horatio’s death as they were not designed to be used at close range.
He added the failure of Michael Reid to fire the rifle was not a contributing factor to Horatio’s death.
The inquest also heard the polar bear was elderly and had been suffering from worn-down teeth, which would have led to it becoming stressed and behaving “more aggressively and unpredictably”.
Mr Singleton added that Mr Chapple had died as a result of fatal injuries after being attacked by the bear.
Edward Watson, BSES chairman, expressed his “deepest sympathy to the Chapple family.”