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Photo: Golli. Search and rescue crews at Þingvallavatn lake, February 2021.

Divers Have Six Minutes to Retrieve Bodies from Lake

Divers are preparing to recover four bodies from Þingvallavatn, Southwest Iceland, after their plane crashed in the lake last Thursday. Each diver may only make one attempt per day, and will only have 20 minutes underwater to recover the bodies, which lie at a depth of 37 metres [121 feet] and deeper. While recovering the bodies is a priority, authorities state that recovering the aircraft from the bottom of the lake is also crucial to the investigation of the crash.

The Cessna 172N plane went missing last Thursday after setting off on a two-hour sightseeing trip. The pilot, Icelander Haraldur Diego, was accompanied by three passengers from the US, Netherlands, and Belgium who have been named as John Neuman, 22; Tim Alings, 27; and Nicola Bellavia, 32. Around 1,000 took part in a search and rescue mission, eventually locating the plane and bodies in Þingvallavatn lake.

Recovery mission could begin tomorrow

Search and rescue crews at Þingvallavatn have prioritised recovering the bodies from the lake, but their efforts have been delayed by unfavourable weather conditions. Chief Superintendent of South Iceland Police Oddur Árnason stated that preparations for the mission are going well, and it could begin tomorrow, if conditions allow. Ensuring the divers’ safety is key: each one may not be in the water for longer than 20 minutes and may only take one dive per day. Due to this time constrain, the divers only have six minutes to do their work once they reach the bodies and are preparing by practising each movement thoroughly.

Aircraft recovery key to investigation

Ragnar Guðmundsson, investigator at the Icelandic Transport Authority, stated recovering the aircraft would be crucial for the investigation of the crash. The plane is located at a depth of 50 metres [164 feet] and appears to be in good shape. The investigation committee would like to find out the amount of fuel on the plane, but the longer it remains underwater, the more likely it is that such evidence will be compromised. So far, investigators have been relying on photographs of the plane taken by unmanned submarines.

There is no so-called “black box” on the plane, a device that records data on an aircraft, such as flight speed, elevation, and sound. Such boxes are not standard equipment on the Cessna 172N model.

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