Greenland adventurer died from hypothermia after ‘all-consuming’ snow storm, inquest hears
An 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 70C after a storm called a Piteraq hit them just two days into their 30-day, 400-mile unsupported trek across an ice cap.
An inquest heard he 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.
The events organiser from Ealing 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 since lost toes and fingers.
Mr Hackney told the hearing in Basingstoke he knew the storm was coming and they set up camp and got ready, with all of them well prepared and with all the right kit to deal with the conditions.
But he explained 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, with visibility almost zero.
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 despite becoming numb with frostbite.
He 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.
Mr Hackney described an ‘utter fight for survival’, as the three of them fought to avoid suffocation.
By the morning of April 28, he told the hearing he was unconscious with hypothermia and Mr Goodeve-Docker must have died a few hours before the rescue.
“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,” he said.
“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.
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.
He said part of my reason he took on the adventures was in memory of his grandfather, Patrick Pirie-Gordon, a former Treasurer and Honorary Vice-President for the Royal Geographical Society, helping fund polar exploration.