A SCHOOLBOY died of a single gunshot wound to the head in a 'tragic and devastating' accident, a coroner has ruled.

Edward Benjamin Gabbert died at the Royal Manchester Children's hospital on November 22 last year after he was shot with a rifle.

An inquest held at Barrow Town Hall today (Thursday) heard Edward was helping to hunt foxes on his family farm at Ulpha in the Duddon Valley.

Lee Thorne, who had a licence for the gun and permission to shoot on the farm, slipped while walking down a rocky outcrop on Panel Holme Farm, it was said.

The gun then fired leading to the 15-year-old's death, the hearing was told.

It was also said that Edward did not fire or handle the guns.

"I slipped and fell about a foot-and-half," said Mr Thorne. "There was a muffled crack. I turned around and saw Edward was falling over. 

"It wasn't until I caught him and got him on the floor that I looked and saw the head wound. 

"I cradled him in my arms.

"I took my jacket off and compressed his head. It all happened so fast."

He said the Czech 455 bolt-action rifle was slung over his shoulder but could not explain why the gun fired.

"I just want an answer, I have got to live with this now."

The inquest also heard from firearms expert Khaldkahn Kabbani.

"As long as the safety is on the weapon will not fire," he said. 

"It's easy to think the safety was engaged. It's not obvious unless you look at it."

Recording a verdict of accidental death, coroner for South and East Cumbria Ian Smith said: "I strongly believe the safety catch wasn't on.

"It can be pushed in the general direction and not catch or possibly forgotten it wasn't on.

"It does appear that the trigger must have caught something as Mr Thorne fell.

"Nobody expected or intended this to happen.

"Mr Thorne was behaving in an acceptable manner. What happened was completely inadvertent, tragic and devastating."

Edward was a year 11 pupil at Millom School. Nobody from his family attended the inquest.