Landing on Frozen Lake Led to Fatal Crash

plane crash

It is not clear whether the pilot of a plane that sank in Þingvallavatn in 2022 landed on the frozen lake intentionally or not. The landing is believed to be the cause of the accident, however. The crash resulted in the death of the pilot and all three passengers, who were all content creators or influencers. The Aircraft Accident Investigation Board published its extensive report on the incident this morning.

Over 1,000 took part in search

On February 3, 2022, a Cessna 172N aircraft went missing in Iceland after setting off on a two-hour sight-seeing trip with three passengers. Over 1,100 people took part in an intensive search operation that eventually located the plane in Þingvallavatn lake. The deceased were identified as Icelandic pilot Haraldur Diego and three passengers from the US, Netherlands, and Belgium: John Neuman (22), Tim Alings (27), and Nicola Bellavia (32). The bodies and the wreckage were eventually recovered from the lake.

Drowning was cause of death

“The cause of the accident is attributed to the intentional or unintentional landing on the frozen lake, as the ice did not support the weight of the aircraft, the aircraft broke through it and crashed into the lake,” the report summary reads. The bodies of all of the deceased were recovered at some distance from the aircraft, indicating that they had tried to swim to land. It was unlikely that they would have been able to do so, however, at the water temperature was around freezing and the distance too great. Autopsy results indicated that drowning was their cause of death.

Content creation a factor in crash

According to the report, the pilot knew the area well and had often landed on frozen lakes or flown over them at low altitude in order to facilitate photography. The board expressed their belief that “it is likely that the purpose of the flight, to create reality content, was a factor in the pilot lowering the flight over the lake.”

Investigation of the aircraft revealed that it had sufficient fuel and did not reveal anything that could explain the cause of the crash. The aircraft did not contain a “black box,” as such equipment is not standard on Cessna 172N models.

Recommendations for future prevention

The board made several recommendations to authorities in order to prevent similar accidents occurring in the future. They include implementing ADS-B transmitters in all manned aircraft flying in Icelandic airspace, as well as directing pilots to respect flight rules regarding minimum altitude and to avoid landing outside runways without ensuring that conditions are safe.

The Board’s reports are, by law, intended to shed light on the cause of accidents for the purpose of future prevention and not to apportion blame or responsibility. They are not to be used as evidence in court proceedings.

Halla Hrund Leads Polls in Presidential Race

Halla Hrund Logadóttir is enjoying a significant lead in Iceland’s ongoing presidential race, with nearly 30% support among voters. Former Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is in second place with just over 21% and Baldur Þórhallsson in third with just over 20%, though the difference is not considered statistically significant. Former Reykjavík Mayor Jón Gnarr takes fourth place with just under 15%.

Katrín’s support growing

The data is from the most recent weekly poll conducted by Prósent for Morgunblaðið. Halla Hrund showed similar support as in the previous week, whereas Katrín Jakobsdóttir showed increased support after dropping in the polls last week. In an unprecedented move, Katrín resigned as Prime Minister last month in order to run for the post.

Record number of candidates

Morgunblaðið notes that most of the responses were submitted before the televised debate that took place last Friday evening, which may impact current support. Respondents were also asked who they believed was most likely to win the election. Respondents considered Halla Hrund and Katrín to be the most likely winners, with neither favoured over the other in the data.

Iceland’s presidential election will take place on June 1. There are 11 official candidates running, a historic record. Current president Guðni Th. Jóhannesson is not running for reelection.

Calls for Better Mental Healthcare After Inmate Found Dead

Litla-Hraun Prison in South Iceland

An inmate at Litla-Hraun Prison was found dead in his cell yesterday morning, RÚV reports. There is no suspicion of foul play. Prisoner advocacy group Afstaða criticised the Icelandic government for not ensuring adequate mental health services for inmates in the country’s prisons.

Director General of the Prison and Probation Administration Páll Winkel stated that the South Iceland Police is investigating the death.

Mental health services lacking

In a statement published on Facebook, Afstaða, an Icelandic organisation that advocates for prisoners’ rights, called on “the government to wake up from its slumber and do something about prison issues, not least with regard to the mental health of people who are deprived of their freedom.”

Lack of mental healthcare for inmates has been a persistent problem in the Icelandic prison system for years. In 2018, there were only three psychologists and no psychiatrist serving some 1,000 people in the system, 75% of whom were believed to require mental health services. Between 2017-2019, two prisoners committed suicide, and their deaths were linked to the disarray in mental health services.

In December 2019, a specialised, interdisciplinary mental health team was established to provide prisoners across the country with mental health services, but more recent reports from international supervisory bodies point to continual issues.

Aging facilities

Litla-Hraun is one of Iceland’s two closed prisons. Its first building was completed in 1929 and was meant to be a hospital but was never used as such. In the ensuing decades, more buildings were added to the prison, but never with a holistic design strategy. A November 2023 Icelandic National Audit Office report stated that the prison does not fulfil modern safety requirements.

Litla-Hraun is set to be replaced by a brand-new facility in 2028. In an interview in February 2024, Þórunn Sveinbjarnardóttir, chair of the Parliament’s Constitutional and Supervisory Committee, stated that authorities cannot simply wait for the new facilities to improve conditions in Icelandic prisons. Þórunn stated that it was necessary to improve existing facilities and improve the prisoners’ environment so that it supports their rehabilitation.

Read more about prisons in Iceland.

Reykjavík’s Sunniest Start of the Year in 77 Years

Beautiful scenery in the harbour area of Reykjavík

You would have to go back to 1947 to find a sunnier start of the year in Reykjavík than 2024 has been so far. At the same time, other parts of Iceland have not been as lucky.

Over 500 hours of sunlight

According to a report issued by the Icelandic Met Office, Iceland’s capital has been blessed with some 512.1 sunlight hours. As Vísir points out, only 1947 had a sunnier start of the year.

That said, sunlight is not necessarily equivalent to warmth, of course. The temperature in Reykjavík in April was, on average, 3.1°C. This is about half a degree under the average for 1991 to 2020, and 1.3 degrees lower than the average for the past ten years. The first four months were, however, also not as rainy as the average for 1991 to 2020, with precipitation only reaching 70% of the average for that time period.

Snowy in the north and east

In other parts of the country, the situation was decidedly different. Heavy snowfall has been the hallmark of the northeast this spring.

Akureyri, located in north-central Iceland, experienced 17 snowy days in April alone. This is three times more than usual, and also meant that there was not a single day in town that month when the ground did not have at least some snow on it.

Not to worry, though; meteorologists predict a very sunny summer for Iceland.

Intercultural Conference Addresses Ways to Fight Xenophobia

Hitt Húsið

The City of Reykjavík hosted this year’s Intercultural Conference at the youth centre Hitt Húsið, which was by all accounts well attended and well received. Speakers and attendees alike related their experiences with xenophobia and racism, as well as ways to combat it.

Translations and accents

Amongst the events at the conference was one led by First Lady Eliza Reid, entitled “Can good literary translations involve inclusion?”, which explored the idea of translated literature establishing better connections between cultures.

Yet another event explored the oft-overlooked subject of Icelandic spoken with an accent. Many people of foreign origin in Iceland who speak Icelandic will do so with an accent, and this event sought to examine how this affects one’s self-image, how those with Icelandic as a mother tongue respond to Icelandic with an accent, and related subjects.

Young people and racism

One of the other more compelling events was an open discussion group for young people aged 13 through 18. This event was coordinated in cooperation between Nordic Pioneers, the anti-racist group Antirasistarnir and Isabel Díaz, Iceland’s UN Youth Delegate on Education, Science and Culture.

Some of these attendees who spoke to RÚV recounted being subjected to bullying and slurs, in school and in the workplace, as well as more subtle kinds of racism. As one example, Kristín Taiwo Reynisdóttir was adopted and brought to Iceland when she was just a couple weeks old. Despite this, she says, she is repeatedly asked where she is from because she is Black. Other people of colour who attended expressed frustration with always being addressed in English first, no matter how long they have lived in Iceland, based on the presumptions others make because of their skin colour.

Women of foreign origin and education

Towards the end of the conference, W.O.M.E.N., an organisation of women of foreign origin in Iceland, led a panel discussion about how, despite their numbers, women of foreign origin are seldom in policy-making positions and are underrepresented in other spheres of society as well.

On a brighter note, the open discussion of young people raised several ideas for how xenophobia and racism can be combated. One of the more prevalent ideas to arise was education–for students, parents and teachers alike. Antirasistarnir offers such education for interested schools, as well as making themselves available to students struggling with xenophobia.

As about one quarter of Reykajvík’s residents are of foreign origin, the conference was by all accounts well received.

State Arbiter Seeks to Settle Airport Labour Dispute

Keflavík Airport

The State Conciliation and Mediation Officer has called for a meeting at noon today, RÚV reports, in the hopes of working out a deal between the union of public servants Sameyki, the union of aviation workers, and management.

Negotiating since 2023

As reported, these workers have been trying to negotiate a new contract since 2023, to no avail.

Things came to a head last month, as the unions involved felt no headway was being made in their negotiations with SA (the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise), who were operating on behalf of Isavia, the company which conducts operations for Keflavík International Airport. This led to the overwhelming majority of union members–80%–voting in favour of a series of work stoppages.

Government intervention

The purpose of the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer, who represents the government, is to intervene and serve as a third party between labour and management in the hopes of drawing up a labour deal that both sides can live with, even if just temporarily.

Strikes and work stoppages at airports are a particularly sensitive matter, given how much revenue is generated through tourism. The intended work stoppages would occur from 4:00AM to 8:00AM on the 10th, 16th, 17th and 20th of May, and would bring departures to a halt. That being the case, time is of the essence as these three parties meet to work out a deal.

New Law Limits Airbnb Rentals

Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir

Businesses are no longer allowed to rent out units classified as residential housing on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb. This is the result of a new law, spearheaded by Minster of Culture and Business Affairs Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, that was passed last week in Alþingi, Iceland’s Parliament, Mbl.is reports.

The law is a response to rising housing prices in Iceland and the Airbnb boom in downtown Reykjavík.

Exception for homeowners

Despite this change, owners of apartments can still rent out their units for up to 90 days a year for up to 2 million ISK [$14,300, €13,300]. “After they hit that mark, the owner can not apply for a lodging license, which has been common practice until now,” a press release from the ministry reads. “Lodging licenses will only be issued for commercial housing or units in the countryside, i.e. farm accommodation. We reiterated that homestays are always subject to registration and a license that must be renewed yearly.”

Aim to increase housing supply

The new law has the aim to boost the supply side of residential housing in and around the Capital Region, to meet increased demand for housing. “With this change, the difference between residential and commercial housing will be clearer when it comes to accommodation and we’re looking at the actual use of the units,” said Lilja. “It’s no longer possible to buy urban residential housing and rent it out for more than 90 days, like we’ve seen in downtown Reykjavík where even entire apartment buildings have been turned into hotels.”

Lawsuit Challenges Þjórsá Hydropower Plant

Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson

Eleven landowners by Þjórsá river in South Iceland have sued the government, demanding that a license for Hvammsvirkjun hydropower plant be revoked.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, minister of the environment, energy, and climate, is surprised and disappointed by the suit, RÚV reports. He said it would delay the project and go against the national interest.

Confident in the project going forward

The proposed hydro project would create a 4 square kilometre reservoir [1.5 square miles] and have an estimated capacity of 95 MW. Guðlaugur Þór said that he remained confident that the hydro plant would be build, despite the lawsuit.

“It’s disappointing that these parties are using loopholes to delay things and it will impact us all,” the minister said. “This has been in the works since 2015 and we need the green energy. And I have to say it like it is, that even if they found loopholes in the regulatory and legal framework, they should also take the national interest into account.”

Damage to the ecosystem

Guðlaugur Þór added that it was important to use domestic electricity instead of imported petrol. He argued that the hydro plant was important for Iceland’s vision in energy policy.

The landowners have argued that the hydro plant will be damaging for the environment, for the local ecosystem and for the salmon population.

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Airport Strikes to Begin in May

Keflavík Airport

The union of aviation workers and Sameyki, a nationwide union of public servants, have agreed to strike action at Keflavík airport starting 9 May, Vísir reports.

Negotiation standstill

Around 80% of the aviation workers union approved the action. Negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement have been ongoing since September 2023 and the labour dispute was handed over to the State Conciliation and Mediation Officer on 8 April.

On 28 April, aviation workers felt that negotiations with SA Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise on behalf of Isavia, the national airport and air navigation service provider of Iceland, had come to a standstill.

Departures halted

The strike action will begin at 4 PM on 9 May with a ban on overtime and training. Airport security workers will strike from 4 to 8 AM on Friday 10 May, Thursday 16 May, Friday 17 May and Monday 20 May.

Unnar Örn Ólafsson, head of the aviation workers union has said that these four hour work stoppages should halt departures and that they were chosen because of how they impact the airlines. “Passengers will not be able to enter if the security check is closed,” he said. “It will also take longer to load passengers into the airplanes.”

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Critical Debate Tonight for Presidential Candidates on RÚV

Parliamentary candidates debate in August of 2021.

Tonight, all twelve presidential candidates will participate in their first joint debate on RÚV at 7.40 PM. A political scientist has noted the significance of the debate, particularly for inexperienced contenders, and Jón Gnarr, who needs a strong showing in light of declining polls.

All candidates meet for first time

Tonight, all twelve presidential candidates, six women and six men, will convene for a televised debate at 7.40 PM, broadcast live on RÚV. In an interview with RÚV, Eiríkur Bergmann Einarsson, a professor of political science, stressed the importance of the evening for the candidates, as it marks the first time voters can evaluate all contenders on the same stage.

“People want to be able to envision that the candidate is equal to the task, behaves in a manner befitting the office, and is a credit to Iceland. Thus, a lot of things are being scrutinised. Attributes like resolve, vision for the future, tolerance, and goodwill are sought after,” Eiríkur maintained.

Eiríkur added that it would be interesting to follow the discussions, especially since most candidates lack extensive experience in electoral campaigning and public debate at such a high level. Among the candidates is Katrín Jakobsdóttir, “who should be as comfortable as a fish in water, seasoned in such circumstances,” according to Eiríkur, while others will need to prove themselves to the nation. “Like Halla Hrund, who has never participated in such an arena before.”

Crucial night for Jón Gnarr

Eiríkur believes that tonight’s debates could be most crucial for Jón Gnarr. According to the latest survey by the School of Social Sciences at the University of Iceland, his support has significantly dropped, to just over 7%. “History has shown that performance in such settings can be decisive,” Eiríkur observed.

As noted by RÚV, today also marks the start of absentee voting in the capital region, taking place in Holtagarðar, Reykjavík, from 10 AM to 8 PM. Generally, absentee voting occurs at district commissioner offices across the country. Locations can be found on the commissioners’ website.

The 12 candidates slated to attend tonight’s debate:

  • Arnar Þór Jónsson
  • Ásdís Rán Gunnarsdóttir
  • Ástþór Magnússon Wium
  • Baldur Þórhallsson
  • Eiríkur Ingi Jóhannsson
  • Halla Hrund Logadóttir
  • Halla Tómasdóttir
  • Helga Þórisdóttir
  • Jón Gnarr
  • Katrín Jakobsdóttir
  • Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir
  • Viktor Traustason