THE father of a Bexley teenager who died on a Moroccan trek has blamed the “failures and cavalier attitude” of the organisers for causing his death.
Samuel Boon was 17 when he collapsed at around 3.30pm on July 17, 2012, on the second day of a World Challenge trek to Amizmiz in the foothills of the Atlas mountains.
The Business Academy Bexley student was taking part in the expedition with nine other pupils and it is thought he died in the aisle of a minibus which arrived more than an hour after he first became unresponsive in temperatures of up to 39C.
The final cause of Sidcup-born Samuel’s death remains unknown though before giving a verdict of death by misadventure, coroner Selena Lynch told the inquest at Bromley Civic Centre this morning it was either heatstroke, hyponatremia or a combination of the two.
Hyponatremia is characterised by low salt levels in the blood caused by excessive intake or retention of water and may have been exacerbated by Samuel taking Desmopressin to combat enuresis, or nocturnal bedwetting, in the time leading up to his death.
The lack of a firm conclusion was blamed on the inquest not having heard directly from World Challenge’s guide or in-country agent, a flawed post-mortem and a lack of toxicology test results.
The trek had been heading for Amizmiz in the Atlas foothills.
It is still not known whether the man who pronounced Samuel dead at the medical centre in Marigha was actually a qualified doctor.
Speaking after the verdict, his father Ken Boon said: “If we had known that in an emergency there would be no helicopter, no ambulance, no medic, in fact the best emergency response available was a minibus with no medical assistance, we would never have allowed Sam to go.
“During the inquest World Challenge seemed intent on shifting the blame to anyone and everyone else.
“We hope that by warning other parents about World Challenge’s dreadful shortcomings we can stop this happening to another child.
“They are certainly not the company they claim to be and their failings and cavalier attitude has cost Sam his life and ruined many more.”
Mrs Lynch said 6ft 2in, 20 stone Samuel’s “obesity and lack of fitness and acclimatisation” has also contributed to his death which occurred on only his third day in Morocco.
Addressing Samuel’s family, she said: “You would have been celebrating his 18th birthday a matter of days after his scheduled return from Morocco.
“It is hard to imagine what you have been through and what you must continue to endure as a result of Sam’s passing.
For more stories from Samuel Boon's inquest click here.
“I wish you luck on that journey and I hope you live long and happy lives as that is what Sam would have asked you to do.”
Business Academy Bexley chief executive Sam Elms said: “If we had been made aware from the beginning that in the event of an emergency the best that we could hope for was a local minibus with not even the most basic medical facilities or equipment on board and no trained medic to save lives, we would not as an academy have signed off on the trip.
“Our community is devastated by the loss of Sam Boon and will never be the same again.”
World Challenge response
Managing Director Matt Eastlake said: “Samuel Boon's death was an absolute tragedy and our deepest sympathies remain with his family and friends.
"World Challenge's highest priority is the safety of its participants and as the coroner noted, we have introduced a number of new measures since Samuel's death, especially in terms of monitoring participant fitness.
"We will take time to reflect on the Coroner's findings and give serious consideration to any change or development which we feel will improve safety further."