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Inquest into Bexley teenager Samuel Boon's Morocco adventure trek death begins
4:16pm Monday 6th January 2014 in News
THE family of a Bexley teenager who collapsed and died on an adventure trek in Morocco believed a helicopter would be on hand if anything went wrong, an inquest has heard.
But Samuel Boon, 17, had to wait two hours by the side of the road before a minibus arrived to evacuate him, the coroner’s court was told.
Samuel joined nine other Business Academy Bexley students on a World Challenge trek in the north African desert country in July 2012.
The itinerary for the 17-day trip included up to five hours a day walking in 35C heat, the hearing at Bromley Civic Centre heard.
Samuel, a maths and physics A-level student described as "easy-going and laid-back" by his mother Karen Boon, collapsed and died on the second day of the trek on July 17.
His mother said she was told at a presentation to parents in the summer of 2011 a helicopter would be on hand in the event of an emergency.
She told coroner Selina Lynch: "We were told they would always be in a place where they could contact people.
"There would be a satellite phone and an emergency beacon.
"They said they had experts in the area who were familiar with the surroundings and the way things worked.
"There would be a helicopter evacuation available in the event of an emergency."
Her son was 6ft 2in and weighed more than 20 stone with a BMI of 36 meaning he was obese.
He had been periodically prescribed the drug Desmomelt to combat enuresis, or bed wetting, since it had first become a problem at the age of four.
Though Samuel would only occasionally take some with him on family holidays by the time of the trek, his mother made sure he had some as a last-minute precaution.
Users are not supposed to drink one hour before taking the drug and restrict their fluid intake for eight hours afterwards or complications can arise.
A strip of 10 tablets found in Samuel's wallet after his death had three missing.
Mrs Boon admitted she didn't mention her son's condition either to his school or World Challenge before the trip.
She said: "I would have read the product information on the tablets several times over the years.
"I never noticed and it didn't seem relevant about drinking large amounts of water.
"If he took any it was definitely only one dose on one night."
Mrs Boon agreed with solicitor Simon Jackson, representing World Challenge, that Samuel and his fellow walkers were "going to be challenged" and it wasn't a "package holiday".
She said: "I knew conditions wouldn't be exactly the same as things here but I thought he was in some sort of protective bubble and there were things in place if anything went wrong.
"We knew he was going to be walking for five hours a day but we were more than confident he could do that with breaks.
"We didn't realise what difference the heat would make.
"If I thought he wouldn't have been able to cope with it I wouldn't have let him go."
She admitted her son "could have done more" to keep fit before the trip in view of advice on the World Challenge website that participants should start preparing physically four months before departure.
Novice trekker Samuel took a 20-30 minute walk to school in Yarnton Way, Erith, four times a week and played golf with his father every two weeks, she said.
Former Business Academy Bexley head of sixth form and assistant headteacher William Pemberton said barely any mention was made of fitness at the World Challenge presentation to students.
He said: "I remember it being said some of the students might want to lose a bit of weight but it was more of a throwaway comment and a rounding up rather than an answer to a specific question.
"Samuel had the stamina and build of a rugby player."
The inquest is expected to last five days.
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