Page last updated at 11:52 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Death risk alluring, says prince

Prince Edward

Prince Edward has suggested the risk of death is part of the attraction of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme for young people.

He made the comments during a trip to Australia after being asked about the death of a teenager on a hiking trip.

The prince did not comment on the case but said the award's element of serious danger - that "you could die doing this" - contributed to its popularity.

The scheme's organisers insisted it had an "exemplary safety record".

The Earl of Wessex was asked a question by The Australian newspaper about the death in 2006 of David Iredale from Sydney during a Duke of Edinburgh award scheme training camp.

The 17-year-old was walking in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales when he became lost, ran out of water and collapsed.

The prince said he did not know the details of the case, but it reminded him of the death of a British boy in the scheme's early years.

They're embarking on an adventure that's got its excitement and its thrills, but not (at) the expense of safety
Geoff Goss, father of teenager who died during an expedition

He said that, despite concern from the award's trustees about its future, the tragedy had actually boosted interest from the young.

"Suddenly the award, which was new...(its) reputation among young people was, 'Wow, this is serious. You could die doing this'.

"And the sense of adventure, the sense of excitement, that it gave you that sort of risk element - that's going back many years - but young people are like that, still that sense of adventure, the sense that it (death) is possible.

"Obviously we don't want that to happen. Certainly that's not the intention: we give them the skills to go out there and do it safely and constructively. It was just that psychology, about what makes young people tick," he said.

The scheme was set up in 1956 and offers bronze, silver and gold awards to young people who take on a series of increasingly challenging tasks.

In 2006, 17-year-old Aaron Goss, from Rushden, Northamptonshire, drowned while swimming in a rainforest area of Ecuador during a Duke of Edinburgh awards expedition.

Well said Prince Edward. How else are young people ever going to learn to recognise and assess risk?
Mike, E. Yorks

His father, Geoff Goss, said the prince was doing young people a disservice.

"They're embarking on an adventure that's got its excitement and its thrills, but not (at) the expense of safety," said Mr Goss.

The Duke of Edinburgh award scheme said in a statement that more than 182,000 people take part in the UK every year.

It added: "The Duke of Edinburgh's Award has an exemplary safety record and has no record of a death of a DofE participant in the UK as a direct result of their DofE expedition."

The prince is visiting Australia to promote the award and discuss its future at the International Award for Young People's 10th forum in Sydney.

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