A 17-year-old British boy was killed and four others were severely injured after a polar bear attacked their tents as they took part in a school trip to the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, officials said Friday.
According to Liv Asta Oedegaard, spokeswoman for the Svalbard governor’s office, the campers – part of group of 13 from the British Schools Exploring Society – had surrounded their tents with a tripwire designed to set off a flare gun if touched by a bear.
“If this tripwire worked, or if the bear crossed over it in a clever way, we don’t know,” Oedegaard said, adding,”It is not unusual to camp here, but it is necessary to carry weapons.”
The polar bear attacked around 7:30am Friday morning while the expedition members were still sleeping in their tents.
The society confirmed that two trip leaders, Michael Reid and Andrew Ruck, and two young people, Patrick Flinders and Scott Smith, had been injured and were being flown to Tromsoe in northern Norway for treatment.
While neither the identity of the slain teen nor specific details regarding the gruesome attack have been released, a statement released on the Svalbard governor’s website revealed that uninjured members of the group managed to shoot dead the bear before police arrived.
The last fatal polar bear attack in Svalbard occurred in 1995, when two people were killed in separate incidents, according to Magnus Andersen, a researcher at the Norwegian Polar Institute. He said an average of three bears a year were killed from 1993 to 2004 in encounters with humans.
Andersen called Friday’s attack the most serious he’d seen.