One year on: Teen opens up about polar bear attack that left one dead

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One year on: Teen opens up about polar bear attack that left one deadMirrorPix


One year on from a polar bear attack that killed his friend, Horatio Chapple, teen Patrick Flanders has opened up about the attack that left him scarred for life.

Patrick was part of a 70-strong group on a three-week expedition with the British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) to the Svalbard Islands 400 miles off the Norwegian coast when the bear attacked after a trip wire warning system failed to work.

Patrick was sharing a tent with Horatio, along with another boy called Scott Bennell-Smith, on the Von Postbreen glacier near Longyearbyen on Svalbard.

One year on: Teen opens up about polar bear attack that left one deadPatrick preparing for his trip to Svalbard: PA


Speaking to the Mirror from his home at St Helier, Jersey, Patrick said: "I've had two operations since, one to straighten my left eye and one to remove skin from in front of my eardrum.

"My left eye leans in slightly but it's fine. I'm just grateful to be alive. I hope I won't need more operations.

"My right arm, where the bear grabbed me, is still scarred and swollen. Apart from that I'm fine."

Patrick was in a tent with friends Horatio and Scott Bennell-Smith when the 14ft, 39-stone bear stuck at around 7.30am.

"I was in my sleeping bag, in the middle," he explained. "I was woken up by a scratching sound. It seemed to be coming from outside. At first I thought it was someone larking around, when suddenly the tent collapsed.

One year on: Teen opens up about polar bear attack that left one deadHoratio Chapple was killed in the attack: PA

"Immediately I knew it was a polar bear, even though I didn't see it. My first instinct was to close my eyes and curl up in my sleeping bag. When I looked out and saw it for a split second, it was standing on its back legs 10 feet away. It was a massive white thing.

"I got back into my sleeping bag and curled up into a ball and closed my eyes. I didn't want to see anything.

"I was just screaming: 'I don't want to be here anymore'. I peeked out and saw its mouth and nose, covered in blood. It was pulling at me, like it was trying to get me out of the sleeping bag.

"Its teeth went through the skin on my elbow, crunching the bone. It also hit my eye with a claw. Suddenly it let go of my arm, but then I felt it bite my head.

One year on: Teen opens up about polar bear attack that left one deadPA


"I heard a crunching noise which I later found out was my skull fracturing and it held me in its jaws for what felt like 30 seconds.

"It let out a growl which deafened me. My arms were flapping around and I was trying to get it off. I think I may have punched it in the face, I'm not sure. Strangely, even then, I did not think I was going to die.

"All of a sudden, it just dropped me. I think it had seen Scott run from the tent and was going after him. I heard a gunshot, shortly afterwards, and the bear was dead.

Patrick described his friend Horatio as a "very nice, funny chap", adding: "I do feel sad that he died. It was just a matter of fate.

"If I had been sleeping where he was, it would have been me."

He says he is not psychologically scarred by the experience - but won't be going on anyone holiday anywhere near polar bears again, saying: "I remember watching the BBC Frozen Planet a couple of months after the attack. That was as close as I would want to get."

One year on: Teen opens up about polar bear attack that left one deadMichael Reid shot and killed the bear: SWNS

Expedition leader Michael Reid was the man who shot the bear dead; he, too, suffered facial scarring after the attack, which left him with a broken jaw, fractured skull, and a damaged eye socket.

Read more of the Patrick Flanders interview at mirror.co.uk

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