Rescue workers labored in extreme conditions to save the lives of two young men whose four wheel drive vehicle fell into a 30 meter deep crevasse at Hofs Glacier (Hofsjökull) on Saturday.
According to news reports, three jeeps had been traveling in convoy on the glacier whe, at about 3PM, the two jeeps in front suddenly noticed the third jeep was missing.
A driver in the first car, Arnar Thór Hjaltason, told daily newspaper Morgunbladid that they didn’t see the missing jeep until they backtracked and found a hole in their tracks marking an opening of a crevasse. They crawled toward the edge of crevasse and looked down. No one answered their calls but they detected signs of life when they heard a horn blowing and saw the lights of the car had been turned on. Arnar then ran toward his own car and called for help.
Over 150 rescue workers from northern Iceland, southern Iceland and the greater Reykjavík area were called out. Three helicopters, one airplane, 28 jeeps, 2 snow trucks and 15 snowmobiles were involved in the rescue. Both Icelandic Coast Guard helicopters were under repair, but helicopters from the US-led Iceland Defense Force and a helicopter from the Danish naval vessel Triton went to the scene.
The helicopters were on the glacier just before 6PM, after which four rescue workers were roped down into the 30 meter crevasse. They tried for hours to get the two men out of the “compressed wreck.” It wasn’t until three hours later when the rescue workers had access to powerful cutting tools that they were able to get into the vehicle.
“It went incredible smoothly considering the conditions,” Gudmundur Gujonsson, coordinator of the rescue efforts from the crevasse, told Morgunbladid. He said the conditions had been almost hopeless: a pitch-black crevasse and massive amounts of icicles dropping down whenever equipment or people were lowered down to the rescue workers. “For a while I felt terrible because I thought it wouldn’t work out.”
It wasn’t until the jeep had been cut open that the rescue workers were able to make contact with the cold and bruised driver who had spent 8 hours on his side in a fetal position in the wreck. His friend and passenger, Tómas Ýmir Óskarsson, 21, was dead.
Just before midnight the helicopter transported the driver to Reykjavík. He did not suffer any broken bones. His condition is said to be good considering the circumstances.
According to geologist Oddur Sigurdarsson the area where the jeep was driving is always quite criss-crossed with crevasses. The glacier is steep in that area and moves rapidly forward, it is under such circumstances that wide and deep crevasses are formed.