Injured victims of polar bear attack recuperating

The four British survivors of a deadly polar bear attack in Norway's Arctic Svalbard archipelago have been operated on and will be transferred home as soon as possible, officials said Saturday.

None of the injuries were life threatening, University Hospital in Tromsoe spokeswoman Marit Einejord said, adding that the four were resting after surgery. British Ambassador Jane Owen, who visited the group in the hospital, said they were "all bearing up well."

"It's clearly a priority to get them home as soon as possible," she said. "It's obviously still a very difficult time for the families and so we are here to try and help and our sympathies and feelings go out to everyone who's been involved with this awful tragedy."

The grieving family of 17-year-old Horatio Chapple, who died in the attack, paid tribute to a schoolboy they described as "strong, fearless and kind." His relatives said in a statement that he had been "so excited about his plans to be a doctor" and praised his "amazing sense of humor and ability to laugh at himself."

The attack took place in Svalbard, a group of islands home to about 2,400 people and 3,000 polar bears. The Arctic territory attracts well-off and hardy tourists with stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers.

The campers were in a group of 80 people, most of them between 16 and 23. Many posed Wednesday for a final photo together before splitting into smaller groups to head out to more remote parts of the Arctic.

The bear attacked one of the groups, made up of 13 people, in the early morning, leaving them with moderate to severe wounds that included head injuries, officials said. The bear was eventually shot — apparently by adventurer Michael "Spike" Reid, his father said Saturday.

Peter Reid said that he had been told by British diplomats that his 29-year-old son, one the expeditions two leaders, was the one who killed the bear.

"We have been told everyone was saying it was Michael who shot the bear and he was a hero. It was very moving," Reid said.

The polar bear, a 550-pound (250-kilogram) male, has been transported to the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen and will be examined by specialists, according to Liv Asta Oedegaard, a spokeswoman for the Svalbard governor's office.

"The bear was killed by one rifle bullet in the head," she said.

Police are investigating the attack and are questioning survivors, she said.


Bjoern H. Amland reported from Oslo, Norway.