Schoolboy polar bear death 'preventable' but tour leaders face no charges

Edward Watson, the Chairman of BSES said he would not comment on the Governor's ruling until the conclusion of its own inquiry into the incident, which is being headed by Sir David Steel.

"Those most closely affected, particularly the Chapple family, remain uppermost in our thoughts at this especially difficult time for them," he said in a statement.

Lars Alfheim, the governor’s spokesman, conceded that the BSES had taken additional risks by camping in tents rather than using the cabins on the island, and had also decided not to keep a polar bear watch or use guard dogs.

But he said that none of these measures were legally required under local laws governing tour operators.

“There are different measures that could have been taken that might have prevented the attack,” he said. “But based on our investigation, it appears that they've done what was required of them.”

The investigation found that the trip wires the group had set to alert them to encroaching polar bears had failed to trigger, despite being tested in advance, and that by the time Mr Reid shot the bear, the 17-year-old had already been killed.

Mr Chappel’s friends, Patrick Flinders and Scott Smith were both injured fighting off the 7ft, 40-stone bear, when it entered their tent, with Patrick punching it in the face before it turned on Mr Chappel. Mr Ruck and Mr Reid were also injured in the attacks.

Mr Alfheim said that the BSES, a charity set up in 1934 by George Murray Levick, one of the members of Captain Scott's Terra Nova expedition to the Antarctic, had been operating in Svalbard for 40 years without suffering a polar bear attack, that Mr Ruck and Mr Reid were both experienced guides.

Polar bear attacks are extremely rare on the island, with only five recorded deaths in the last 40 years.

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