Boys mauled by killer polar bear flown home for treatment

Two members of an expedition who were injured in a polar bear attack in which a 17-year-old boy was killed were on their way back to the UK yesterday.

Scott Bennell-Smith, 17 and Patrick Flinders, 16, were being flown to Britain under the care of a specialist medical evacuation team and admitted to hospital here, the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) confirmed.

Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple died in the attack in Svalbard, Norway, on Friday and four others were injured, when the massive predator attacked their group. The five men and boys were part of a group camping on the Von Postbreen glacier near Longyearbyen on Svalbard, north of the Norwegian mainland.

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They had been researching climate change by studying glaciers and documenting changes since previous expeditions.

Horatio's family, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, hailed him as a "strong, fearless and kind" boy, who had been "so excited about his plans to be a doctor".

In a statement, they praised his sense of humour and ability to laugh at himself. "He was on the cusp of adulthood and had a clear vision of where his life was going," they said.

The schoolboy's body was due to be taken from Svalbard to Troms by plane yesterday.

Terry Flinders, 58, father of Patrick Flinders, said he would be relieved to have his son back.

The youngster was due to land at Southampton Airport last night and then be transported by ambulance to hospital in the city.

Mr Flinders said: "I've spoken to him three times now, but the first time all he said was 'polar bear, polar bear, polar bear, polar bear. My eye. Dad, come and get me.'

"He phoned me the next day and said 'I'm in pain, Dad.' And then he phoned this morning and sounded better.

"But he's only 16, he's not an SAS guy."

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Mr Flinders told how he had been approached in a local restaurant yesterday by people praising his son.

He admitted he was worried the attack might have affected Patrick psychologically.

"His scars and all that could be fixed in six months' time, but there's got to be some effect on him," he said. "He's human."

Patrick was slashed across the face and head by the bear, which also ripped his ear and damaged his eye.

His father said he was not going to ask him about the attack straight away but would let his son tell him the details in his own time.

Plans are being made to bring home the two other members of the party who were injured - Michael Reid, the expedition leader who shot the bear, and Andy Ruck - when medics and transport authorities allow, BSES said.

Mr Reid's father spoke of his pride at his son's bravery.

Peter Reid, 65, from Plymouth, said: "He told us the bear attacked the tent with three people in it, and he and another leader went to help and were viciously attacked.

"He managed to get away, ran to get a gun and shot the bear."

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He said he did not want to use the word "hero" to describe his son, but added: "The other members of the group said he was very, very brave."

Michael Reid, 29, who lives in London and works as an events co-ordinator for the Royal Geographical Society, sustained injuries to his face and neck.

Fellow leader Mr Ruck, 27, a graduate from Aberdeen University, was also seriously hurt.

Peter Reid said he was "very anxious" when the BSES called him on Friday to inform him of the bear attack.

He added: "We're upset, but there's a family in Wiltshire with a 17-year-old son who's been killed, and we can't imagine the grief they're going through."

Wesley Riant, 16, who attended school in Jersey with Patrick, described his friend's excitement about the trip, saying: "Nothing was going to stop him going."