Teen mauled in polar bear attack tells his story

Ceri Roberts
Teen mauled in polar bear attack tells his story
Teen mauled in polar bear attack tells his story

AFP/Getty


Earlier this month Patrick Flinders, 16, escaped with his life while his friend, Horatio Chapple was mauled to death by a polar bear during a trip to the Arctic Circle.

He's had extensive surgery and spent several weeks in hospital, and has now been praised for his bravery after he fought off the bear by repeatedly punching it in the face.

Now he has given his first-hand account of the events that led to his friend's death on Friday, August 5.

Patrick, who has severe scars on his face and arms, says: "I loved the idea of the Arctic Circle trip - it just sounded like something different. The landscape sounded amazing. I'd seen documentaries and it looked cool, a completely new place, especially the polar bears.

"I decided I had to do it. It felt exciting but also quite scary."

Patrick was the only one in his school year to put himself forward for the trip and had to raise the £4,000 cost himself by appealing to local businesses and charity funds and holding car boot sales.

He explains that when they got to camp they were shown how to set up a tripwire to deter polar bears and were taught how to use a rifle in case a bear entered the camp.

He says, "The leaders had explained how dangerous [polar bears] were. They said there was no point in running because they would catch you up. And they said not to shoot them in the head because their skulls were so thick it wouldn't damage them."

On the day of the attack, the polar bear arrived in the camp at 7.30am.

Patrick was sharing a tent with Horatio and another friend, Scott Bennell-Smith, who also suffered head injuries.

It is now believed that the bear was able to enter the camp because the trip wire may not have been set up properly.

Patrick says: "I remember waking up to a rattle in the tent. You know when people are messing about, shaking the tent? That zippy, fabric sound. We all thought that's what it was. We all said, 'What's that?' We held our breath slightly and kept quiet. I was about to close my eyes again when the tent suddenly collapsed on us with a huge force behind it.

"We all screamed at the shock of it. We heard the polar bear - the only thing it could have been. There was a low growl, the sound of breathing and panting, deeper and louder than I could have imagined.

"It just crushed through. All I heard was me and Scott shouting, screaming and swearing. I was screaming, 'I don't want to be here any more.

He says that there was silence for several minutes, then screams filled the air.

"I looked out of my sleeping bag and the bear must have ripped through the tent canvas because I could see it dragging someone, I think Spike, along the ground. It had him by the head, dragging him away from the tent. I ducked back in my sleeping bag and tried to hide.

"But then I heard it come towards us. I looked up and saw its jaw snapping. Its nose was covered in blood, all around it. I was terrified, really scared then. At that moment, I thought I might die. I closed my eyes tight.

"The next thing I knew it had its jaws around my arm and it was squeezing hard. I didn't feel pain but I could feel my bones crushing."

It had been reported that Patrick attempted to fire a rile at the bear, but he says that the only gun was kept in the leaders' tend, so he used his fists instead.

"It let go of my arm and put its jaws around my head. I could feel it crushing my skull," he says. "I could hear it crack. I reached up and started punching it in the face, just trying to get it off me. It was still growling. Scott must have decided to run because it suddenly dropped me and went after him. I wasn't thinking of anything, I just wanted it to be over."

Patrick is still struggling to come to terms with what happened.

"I had been through this and had managed to survive," he says. "But Horatio was dead. I didn't understand, and kept thinking, 'How? Why?'

"It was pure chance Horatio was sleeping in that part of the tent. We moved around all the time, and another night it could have been me sleeping there, or Scott.

"I think the pressure of the polar bear jumping on to the tent delivered some kind of fatal blow. It must have been really quick."

Patrick was not able to attend Horatio's funeral and has refused counselling, preferring to confide in friends instead.

He insists he is not a hero.

"It wasn't just me who was injured - the others were too," he says. "It feels like I'm the only one, but I'm not. I punched the polar bear because I was fighting for my life, not because I wanted to fight it."

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