Landing on Frozen Lake Led to Fatal Crash Skip to content

Landing on Frozen Lake Led to Fatal Crash

By Yelena

plane crash
Photo: Golli. Search and rescue crews at Þingvallavatn lake, February 2022.

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.

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