Hampshire Adventurer Died Of Hypothermia

19 August 2013, 13:17 | Updated: 19 August 2013, 13:29

A Hampshire adventurer died from hypothermia after being hit by a two-day relentless sub-zero storm while on a charity trek in Greenland that left him and his friends battling to stay alive in terrible conditions.

Philip Goodeve-Docker, 31, was trapped in a tent with winds blowing outside of 160mph and temperatures down to minus 20C (minus 4F) after a storm called a Piteraq hit them just two days into their 30-day, 400-mile (644km) unsupported trek across the Greenland ice cap.

Mr Goodeve-Docker fought to survive the storm along with team leader Roan Hackney, 31, and his friend Andrew Norman, 33 when it hit the group on April 26, an inquest in Basingstoke was told.

The events organiser, from Chilbolton near Andover, died just hours before the group were finally rescued by helicopter at noon on April 28 in appalling weather conditions. The other men survived the ordeal, but with frostbite, and Mr Norman has lost toes and fingers.

Mr Hackney told the hearing that he knew the storm was coming and they set up camp and got ready and they were well prepared with all the right kit to deal with the conditions.

But he explained that very soon on April 26 the storm "rapidly escalated out of nowhere'' and soon drifting snow and ice was crushing them inside the tent. Within hours all three of the tents poles had snapped forcing them to huddle in the outside porch of the tent and fight for their lives after the conditions started to take their toll.

Mr Hackney said he tried to go outside to move the snow but could not make it and visibility was 0.8in (2cm) in front of his face.

All the time the men were being squeezed in the porch of the tent and Mr Hackney said:

"I was concerned there would be suffocation under a blanket of snow.''

Mr Hackney called for help on a satellite phone and was told that it was impossible to get a helicopter to them and so the men had to sit it out. In Chilbolton, Mr Goodeve-Docker's family were trying to get the rescue brought forward after speaking Mr Goodeve-Docker on the phone, the court was told.

By this point the men were becoming exhausted.

"I kept repeating to the team their names and to tell me them back but in reality, our thoughts were only on survival. We were numb with frostbite and it was then that the very real thought that we might not make it formed in our minds - we were just trying to stay alive.''

Mr Hackney said the space the men had was getting smaller and smaller as the storm continued to rage for hours on end and the snow and ice built up around them.

"From 1900 (on April 27) it was an utter fight for survival. It was excruciating but we had a sense of purpose and we were determined to stay alive. We were all striving to avoid suffocation - it was horrible not to be able to do anything about it,'' he explained.

"I had no intention of dying. I was desperate for my team to make it.''

By the morning of April 28, Mr Hackney told the hearing he was unconscious with hypothermia and said that Mr Goodeve-Docker must had died a few hours before the rescue. He had put his red gloved hand above the snow in one last desperate attempt to lead rescuers to the men.

"I heard the helicopter and the sound of people grabbing my hand and I was pulled out of the snow. I was carried to the helicopter. It was only later in hospital that I heard Andy had survived and Phil had died. For the last four hours I was unconscious.''

Mr Norman told the hearing, which was attended by Mr Goodeve-Docker's family, that his overwhelming memory of the ordeal was the constant relentless wind. He made a desperate attempt to live by managing to get under the team's sledge for shelter before he was rescued.

"Phil I knew to be dead. I had realised that Phil had frozen to death,'' he told the hearing

Recording a verdict of misadventure, North Hampshire coroner Andrew Bradley said:

"It's almost perverse that a fundraising drive taking place in a sense of adventure became the most appalling misadventure.

"A Piteraq is a storm in Greenland that is all consuming and swept all before it and the best preparation was not able to stand up to the storm.''

On his JustGiving page Mr Goodeve-Docker wrote of the dangers he would face travelling across one of the most ''deadly landscapes in the world'' on the world's second largest ice cap from east to west.

''Part of my reasons for this frankly nutty adventure is my grandfather, Patrick Pirie-Gordon, who passed away two years ago", he wrote.

''Amongst his achievements were his key roles as Treasurer and Honorary Vice-President for the Royal Geographical Society, helping fund polar exploration, and Treasurer for the QNI (Queen's Nursing Institute). He was intensely passionate about both these institutions.

''It gave me added incentive to say yes to the expedition and, because of their fantastic work in nursing & helping those in need at home, to do my part for QNI. They really do fantastic work.

''So please dig deep and donate now. All the support will be great incentive to come back in one piece! :) I'm going back outside to stumble around with tyres again... wish me luck!''