Brighton expedition leader describes polar bear mauling in attack which killed schoolboy

Posted On 08 Jul 2014 at 7:38 pm

A Brighton mountain leader described being mauled by a polar bear during an expedition on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago.

Andy Ruck, 30, of Chichester Drive East, Saltdean, was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of 17-year-old schoolboy Horatio Chapple.

Mr Ruck, who now lives in Edinburgh, told the inquest in Salisbury how he saw the polar bear attack his colleague Mike Reid, who was known as Spike.

Mr Reid tried to shoot the bear with a rifle but, although he pulled the trigger three or four times, it didn’t fire any bullets. It just spat them out on to the ground.

Andy Ruck

Andy Ruck

Mr Ruck said that the bear attacked Mr Reid. Mr Ruck charged at the bear, shouting and throwing rocks at its face.

The bear then attacked Mr Ruck, knocking him to the ground. It swiped Mr Ruck’s face with its claw and tried to bite his head.

The bear then mauled and killed Horatio Chapple before Mr Reid managed to shoot it.

Mr Ruck suffered serious injuries in the attack on Friday 5 August 2011 during a British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) expedition.

The group had relied on a tripwire system to alert them to polar bears but it hadn’t worked properly.

The Svalbard authorities investigated the incident and ruled that there had been no negligence.

Mr Ruck is a travel writer and experienced expedition leader who was leading a group of 11 youngsters with Mr Reid.

He learnt some of his basic outdoor and survival skills as a member of the 42nd Brighton (Saltdean) Scout Troop. His father Dick devised an animated series of lessons in tying knots.

The inquest continues.

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