Video: Horrifying polar bear attack leaves teen dead

  1. Closed captioning of: Horrifying polar bear attack leaves teen dead

    >>> back now at 7:50. with a horrifying and deadly polar bear attack in norway, the victims, a group of teenagers, on a wildlife adventure camping trip . martin fletcher is in london with details on this. good morning.

    >> matt, good morning two british survivors of that horrific attack by the polar bear returned home this weekend, two in the hospital in norway, attacked at dawn by a bear looking for food. they're adorable at a distance and when well fed. when the polar bears are mean killing machines. ten feet tall, they weigh half a ton and they can be ferocious. today in the arctic circle one of the most beautiful places on the planet, it's warmer than usual. there isn't much food for the polar bears . so when a group of british youngster on a wildlife adventure trip set up camp for the night they became bait for a bear. they woke to a roar, a polar bear burst into a tent, slashing with razor claws, snapping with razor teeth. terrified, the boys fought back. two guides badly injured and 17-year-old chapel killed, a schoolboy who wanted to study medicine.

    >> by all accounts, he would have made an excellent doctor.

    >> reporter: patrick flynn is here with his father preparing for the trip of a lifetime was bitten in the head.

    >> the polar bear got into the tent where patrick was and they just for some reason grabbed horatio and just killed him.

    >> his parents devastated said in a bizarre twist, his namesake, the 18th century british naval hero, had fought a polar bear on the very same glacier and survived. moore would have been killed but for the bravery of 29-year-old mike reid . four times he fired his gun at the bear but it misfired each time. as the bear slashed him, severely cutting his neck and head, reed bloodstreaming reloaded, fooird and killed the bear. there are about 2,000 polar bears here, but it's believed that with global warming , food is scarce. a post-mortem showed this polar bear was 110 pounds underweight with almost no fat reserves. it must have been starving.

    >> if there is any food source there, they will come after you for that. it's just a natural process. whether you can put them off is the key question.

    >> reporter: tragically the british youngsters could not.

    >> the expedition cut short its trip and questions. why did the gun not fire, why did the warning trip wide stop bears not work and especially this time of year when polar bears were hungry why were the youngsters there in the first place? hard yeses questions as the family mourns their son.

Image: Campsite where bear attacked
Arild Lyssand  /  AFP - Getty Images
This campsite was attacked by a polar bear early Friday in Norway's Svalbard region.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 8/5/2011 2:06:39 PM ET 2011-08-05T18:06:39

A polar bear attacked British campers on Friday, killing a 17-year-old boy and seriously injuring four people in Norway's Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, officials said.

The bear entered a tent camp of the British Schools Exploring Society, a youth development charity, some 25 miles east of the town of Longyearbyen, said Liv Asta Oedegaard, spokeswoman for the Svalbard governor's office.

"The person killed is a 17-year-old boy, a British citizen, and the others are also British citizens," she said.

She said the injured — aged 16, 17, 27 and 29 and all males — were flown by helicopter to Longyearbyen hospital and then by airplane to Tromsoe on the Norwegian mainland.

"Their injuries are serious," Oedegaard said.

Edward Watson, chairman of the society, identified the teen killed as Horatio Chapple, who hoped to study medicine.

"By all accounts, he would have made an excellent doctor," Watson said, adding that his thoughts were with the family.

The injured adults were the group's leaders, Michael Reid and Andrew Ruck, and the two other injured teens were identified as Patrick Flinders and Scott Smith.

"Patrick was trying to fend off the polar bear by hitting it on the nose — why, I don't know, but he did and ... the polar bear attacked him with his right paw across his face and his head and his arm," the boy's father, Terry Flinders, was quoted by the BBC as saying.

Eight unhurt campers were being cared for in Longyearbyen on the central island of Spitsbergen.

Image: Polar bear killed after attack
Scanpix Norway  /  Reuters
This polar bear was shot dead Friday after it attacked campers in Norway's Svalbard achipelago.

The exploring society organizes expeditions to help youngsters develop self-confidence by introducing them to wild, remote environments.

Svalbard, a renowned polar bear habitat, is in the Arctic Ocean about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole. The attack occurred near the edge of Von Post Glacier and was reported by satellite phone, Oedegaard said.

After the attack the bear was killed by an armed member of the British group, she said, adding: "Our investigators are still trying to figure out exactly what happened."

Camp had tripwire to warn of bears
She said the campers had surrounded their tents with a tripwire designed to set off a flare gun if touched by a bear.

"If this tripwire worked, or if the bear crossed over it in a clever way, we don't know," Oedegaard said.

"It is not unusual to camp here, but it is necessary to carry weapons," she said.

Researchers say there is not much food available for polar bears during the summer in that area.

The bears, which can grow to around 10 feet and weigh up to 1,200 pounds, are the world's largest non-aquatic predators. Although they don't usually hunt humans, they can attack nearly anything if they are hungry.

With their broad paws and claws as long as two inches, polar bears are extremely dangerous and visitors to Svalbard are advised to avoid confrontation and store smelly food securely.

The Svalbard archipelago, which is home to about 2,400 people and 3,000 polar bears, attracts well-off and hardy tourists with stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers.

The British Schools Exploring Society has run expeditions for young people to remote and challenging corners of the globe for at least 75 years.

Members were spending either 3 or 5 weeks in the Arctic, and had each paid between 2,000 pounds (US$3,280) and 3,000 pounds (US$4,900) to join the trip, designed to mix science experiments with adventure.

Image: People pull remains of male polar bear away from attack scene
Scanpix Norway  /  Reuters
The dead polar bear is removed from the site Friday.

Participants were hunting for Arctic fossils and taking part in environmental experiments, including a project to install hydro and solar power systems. The group was also involved in a cleanup campaign run by Svalbard authorities, clearing beaches of tidal debris.

Before heading out to the Arctic, youngsters had been urged to raise their fitness levels to cope with the challenging terrain, and to prepare for a diet of freeze-dried meals.

The campers were part of a trip of 80 people, most of them between 16 and 23, the British Schools Exploring Society said. Many posed on Wednesday for a final photo together before splitting into smaller groups to head out to more remote parts of the Arctic.

Bears seen earlier
In a blog posting on the society's website on July 27, expedition member Marcus Wright wrote that the group had encountered polar bears shortly after arriving in Longyearbyen.

"I think we must have all dreamed of polar bears because the next day we were eagerly waiting for the ice floes to break up so we could move on to base camp," Wright wrote in his blog posting.

Wright wrote that the group had spotted a polar bear across a fjord, and also another bear floating on some ice. "This time we were lucky enough to borrow a kind Norwegian guide's telescope to see it properly," he wrote.

Other postings detailed that the group had been trained in using bear flares to protect their camps, and also received rifle training.

Kjersti Noraas, a Svalbard tourism coordinator, said around 30,000 tourists visit the islands every year and although most choose to go on guided tours, "quite a few come to camp in the wilderness."

The last time someone was killed by a polar bear at Svalbard was in 1995, when two people were killed in two different incidents, said Magnus Andersen, a researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

On average, three bears have been killed every year during the period from 1993 to 2004 in encounters with humans, according to Svalbard authorities.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments