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 Novem-ber 22 last year – a day after he was shot with a rifle while lamping late at night on his family farm.

An inquest at Barrow Town Hall heard that the 15-year-old was helping to hunt foxes on the farm at Ulpha, in the Duddon Valley.

Lee Thorne and Philip Harvey, who both had licences for their guns and permission to shoot on the farm, were being helped by the teenager.

The inquest heard how Mr Thorne spotted a fox in his scope before the group moved closer for a clearer shot.

While walking down a rocky outcrop on Panel Holme Farm, Mr Thorne slipped and landed on the ground, causing the gun to fire, it was said.

The teenager did not fire or handle the guns at any point, the inquest heard.

Clasping his hands and visibly nervous, Mr Thorne recalled the incident.

“I slipped and fell about a foot-and-a-half,” he said. “There was a muffled crack. I turned 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, took my jacket off and compres-sed his head. It all happened so fast.”

He said he could not explain why the Czech 455 bolt-action rifle fired.

“I just want an answer, I have got to live with this now,” he said.

The inquest also heard from firearms expert Khaldkahn Kabbani, who said he had repli-cated the incident by dropping the gun from 1.5m.

“The pin did not move,” he said. “As long as the safety is on the weapon will not fire.

“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 Ian Smith said: “I strongly believe the safety catch wasn't on. It can be pushed in the general direction and not catch or pos-sibly it was forgotten.

“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.