A schoolboy whose semi-clad body was found by a river four days after he went missing, froze to death in a tragic accident, according to an official inquiry.
Described as a “happy, quiet” 15-year-old, Daniel Chambers went missing on his way to school in a rural town in Devon, southwest England, last winter.
A coroner’s investigation on Oct. 25 concluded that he had died of exposure after becoming confused, according to local reports.
Daniel had missed the school bus from his village of Tipton to the nearby town of Ottery St. Mary on Dec. 13—a very cold, wet day.
He was last seen alive striding with determination and purpose near the river that runs between the village and the town, according to eye witnesses at the inquest.
His family raised the alarm that afternoon, sparking a police search.
Four days later, his partially clothed body was discovered near the river, slumped at the base of a tree.
Assistant Coroner Lydia Brow noted that severe cases of hypothermia can lead to people removing their clothing—known as “paradoxical undressing”—according to the BBC.
Up to half of hypothermia deaths involve paradoxical undressing of some kind according to the New Scientist.
According to the Sidmouth Herald, Brown told the inquiry, “He died of hypothermia. He was discovered in a field by the river near his home in Tipton St John having inexplicably left home and not gone to school on Dec. 13.
“His body and clothing were very wet. He died of exposure after becoming confused. There is nothing in this terrible sequence of events to lead me to the conclusion other than this was an accidental death,” said Brown.
There a small amount of whisky in one of his two water bottles that was later found in his discarded backpack, according to the Daily Mail.
Knee-deep Standing Water
The inquest heard that he had an alcohol level of 98mg in his blood, a little above the the legal drink-driving limit of 80mg per 100 milliliters of blood.
The weather was very cold and wet that day. The area around the river had a number of areas with knee-deep standing water, the inquest heard.
His wallet had been left at home but his phone and one trainer were not found.
The coroner noted that Daniel came from a closely-knit family and enjoyed life as a teenager.
“The closest we have got to Daniel being a rebel was thinking of trying out smoking,” said Brown.
Daniel was walking with a ‘grim determination and irritation’ on his face one eye witness told the inquiry, according to the Daily Mail. Another said he was “in a little world of his own and talking to himself.”
According to the Mail, his family said in a statement to the inquest: “Daniel was all you could have asked of a son—he was kind, sensitive, thoughtful, caring, and loving and made us all smile with his fun loving nature.”