UK

Polar bear attack survivors begin to arrive back in UK

Scott Bennell-Smith
Image caption Scott Bennell-Smith, 16, is one of the two teenagers who have arrived back in the UK

Two survivors of an Arctic polar bear attack in which a British boy died have arrived back in the UK from Norway.

Terry Flinders - father of Patrick Flinders - said his son and Scott Bennell-Smith landed at 16:30 BST at Southampton airport.

All of the four survivors injured in Friday's attack, on Spitsbergen island, have been receiving treatment at a hospital in Tromso.

Eton pupil Horatio Chapple, 17, died after being mauled by the bear.

Mr Flinders said his son, 16, from Jersey, was being treated at Southampton General Hospital, while he believed that Scott Bennell-Smith, 16, from St Mellion in Cornwall, was heading to a hospital in Plymouth.

The British Schools Exploring Society, a youth development charity which had organised the expedition, has not yet decided when the two other Britons will fly home.

Trip leaders Michael "Spike" Reid, 29, from Plymouth and Andrew Ruck, 27, who is from Brighton but lives in Edinburgh, were severely injured in the bear attack, but are now stable.

The British ambassador to Norway, Jane Owen, said it was a priority to get the patients home as soon as possible "so that they can be with their families as they go through the recovery process".

'Teeth in head'

Mr Flinders said doctors in Southampton had told him that his son suffered a fractured skull and that some of the polar bear's teeth had to be removed from his head during surgery in Norway.

His parents had previously thought he had only been bitten on the arm and swiped in the face by the bear.

The 16-year-old is said to be conscious and lucid and under observation by the medical team at the hospital.

Mr Flinders earlier explained how his son had tried to defend the group, saying he "tried to jump on it and smash the polar bear's nose" when the animal attacked the boys in their tent.

Image caption Horatio Chapple had been expected to read medicine after completing his studies at Eton

Scott shot but did not kill the bear, which then "went for Patrick, he bit his arm and then just swiped his face and top of his head. And then the same with Scottie," Mr Flinders said.

Referring to a conversation he had with his son, he said: "I told him 'you're a hero here mate, the way you attacked that bear'.

"He said he can't remember doing it, but I suppose it might come back to him later."

Doctors are set to assess Patrick on Monday in a bid to ascertain when he can be transferred home to Jersey.

Mr Reid then shot the bear dead, but was also mauled himself.

Scott's father, Peter, said in a statement that Friday was the worst day of his life.

"It will never leave me to think how close Scott came to being killed that day," he said.

"I am so sorry for the loss of his new friend and fellow adventurer, Horatio. It is every parent's worst nightmare."

'Fearless and kind'

The family of Horatio paid tribute to him in a statement, describing him as "strong, fearless and kind".

They said Mr Chapple had been "so excited about his plans to be a doctor" and praised his "amazing sense of humour and ability to laugh at himself".

Eton College, where Mr Chapple was a pupil, expressed its deep sadness at the schoolboy's death and offered its condolences to his family and friends.

The attack on the campsite near the Von Post glacier about 25 miles (40km) from Longyearbyen, took place early on Friday.

The BSES, based in west London, organises scientific expeditions to remote areas to develop teamwork and a spirit of adventure. There were 80 people on the trip to Spitsbergen, which had been scheduled to run until 28 August.

The charity announced on Saturday that it had decided to end the expedition and make arrangements for the remaining members to be brought home.

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