Fatality in Bus and Scooter Collision

fatal accident Iceland

A man on an electric scooter died this weekend after colliding with a bus, RÚV reports. The victim, who was a foreign national living in Iceland, was in his twenties.

This is the second fatal accident involving an electric scooter in Iceland. The first occurred almost a year ago exactly, in November of 2021, when a man in his 50s collided with a motorcycle.

According to police spokesperson Guðmundur Páll Jónsson, the man seems to have driven his scooter into the side of a group coach about the size of a bus, when it was travelling at low speed. The collision took place at the corner of Barónstígur and Grettisgata around 9:00 pm on Saturday night. Police are still investigating the circumstances of the accident.

The The Red Cross offered trauma support and counseling to seventeen of the passengers, as well as three more witnesses on Sunday. Sunday also happened to be a day of memorial for victims of traffic accidents. Eight people have died in traffic-related accidents in Iceland in 2022.

This article has been updated.

Tourist Dies at Reynisfjara, Group Caught by Waves in the Same Spot the Next Day

Reynisfjara black sand beach

A tourist died on Friday after being swept out to sea by a wave at Reynisfjara beach, just outside Vík í Mýrdal in South Iceland. RÚV reports that the man, who was in his eighties, was in the ocean for about an hour before he could be rescued and was dead by the time the Coast Guard helicopter was able to reach him.

The victim was from Canada and part of a larger tour group with his wife, who was also caught by the same wave. The tour guide was able to grab the woman and drag her to safety, but her husband was not so lucky. Rescue teams from South Iceland and the Westman Islands were called to the scene, as well as the Coast Guard. Conditions at sea were quite dangerous, however, with very high winds that prevented the Coast Guard helicopter from reaching the man for an hour.

The Red Cross’ trauma team was called in to provide services for the woman and her travel companions.

Believed they could swim ashore

Only a day later, a group of foreign tourists, including a family from Germany, were swept up in a wave in the same spot where the Canadian couple was caught on Friday. No one was seriously injured, but apparently, the group believed they could swim back to land if they were caught by the waves.

The upsetting incident was witnessed by tour guide Hrafnhildur Faulk.

Hrafnhildur saw six people get swept off their feet. Five managed to pull themselves to safety quickly; the last man lingered. “I was waiting for him to get up and run,” recounted Hrafnhildur, but the man stayed in the surf, looking for his glasses in the sand.

“He seemed pretty unphased, considering,” she continued. “I think I would have been more alarmed.”

Hrafnhildur said that she frequently sees people putting themselves in harm’s way on the shore at Reynisfjara, even running into the waves with small children. “Naturally, you run over and intervene,” she said. “But unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop it.”

An all-too common occurrence

There have been many drownings at Reynisfjara over the years when visitors, generally foreign tourists, are swept into the ocean by powerful “sneaker waves.” In May, a Spanish tourist nearly drowned after intentionally wading into the surf to have photos taken, but thankfully, he was able to pull himself to shore. Last November, a young Chinese woman was not so lucky. Between 2007 and 2019, three people drowned at the popular beach.

That year, the government began to conduct a risk assessment and closed part of the beach, although many visitors ignored the closure. Much of the beach remains open, although with prominent warnings and explanations of the very real danger posed by the sneaker waves are posted in several languages.

Preparations Made to Recover Plane Crash Wreckage

missing plane Þingvellir

The wreckage from the plane that crashed in Lake Þingvallavatn in February will be recovered Friday, Vísir reports. Recovering the aircraft is vital to the ongoing investigation into why the plane—which did not have a black box—actually crashed.

The Cessna 172N, piloted by Haraldur Diego, went missing on February 3 after setting off on a two-hour sightseeing tour with three passengers from the US, the Netherlands, and Belgium respectively. What followed was one of the most extensive search and rescue efforts in recent memory, involving 1,000 individuals at its height. The wreck was eventually located and the bodies of the pilot and his three young passengers—John Neuman, 22; Tim Alings, 27; and Nicola Bellavia, 32—were brought up by divers from a depth of 37 metres [121 feet] and deeper. Difficult conditions and freezing temperatures further complicated the process: each diver was only permitted a single attempt per day and a total of 20 minutes in the water. Plans were made to haul out the plane itself as well, but these were postponed once conditions were determined to be too dangerous for the time being. The wreckage has remained on the bottom of the lake, at a depth of 50 metres [164 ft], ever since.

See Also: All Four Bodies Recovered from Lake Pingvallavatn

Work stations were set up by the lake today, with about 60 people set to take part in recovery operations. Although the plane’s been submerged for two months, its condition doesn’t appear to have changed. Rúnar Steingrímsson, an officer with the South Iceland Police, told reporters on Thursday afternoon that the situation is completely different from what it was in February. Conditions are much more temperate and Friday’s forecast is good.

“The barges, or at lest one of them, will probably be put out today [Thursday], and then everything will get started tomorrow,” he said. “People and the rest of the equipment will arrive on Friday morning.”

There will be five divers on hand to help with the recovery process. Besides being at a significant depth, the wreckage is also “some 1,800 metres [1.1 mi] from where we’ll be putting the equipment out,” said Rúnar. “The same place we were in last time. We’re just hoping it all goes well and that this is successful. We’ve been planning this for a long time. We went last week and photographed the plane again and it was in the same condition as when we left it. So everything seems to be good in that respect.”

“There’s a dive to the plane at this depth and then it will be hoisted up under barges and brought closer to land, within some five or six metres [16-20 ft], and then they’ll dive again and take out all the electronic equipment.”

If everything goes to plan, the aircraft will have been brought ashore by Friday evening.

Missing Plane Found

missing plane Þingvellir

Search and Rescue teams have found the sightseeing plane that went missing around midday on Thursday, Vísir reports. The craft was found in Þingvallavatn lake by a remote-controlled submarine at 11:00 pm on Friday night. There were four casualties in the crash: an experienced Icelandic pilot and three foreign tourists who were from Belgium, the Netherlands, and the US, respectively.

Nearly 1,000 people took part in the search, including around 900 Search and Rescue team members, the Coast Guard’s helicopter and special operations squadrons, police officers, members of Civil Protection, the National Police Commissioner’s special squadron, employees of ISAVÍA (the national airport and air service provider of Iceland), as well as private individuals.

In its announcement about the discovery of the plane, the Coast Guard thanked all those who had taken part in the search “for their selfless and dedicated work under demanding conditions. An investigation into the incident and next steps are in the hands of the South Iceland police.”

At time of writing, there was not yet any indication of what caused the accident, and nor was it known if there was a black box on board that could potentially shed light on the circumstances of the crash.

Poor weather conditions will make recovery difficult

As of Saturday night, South Iceland police had advised that poor weather conditions and difficult conditions on Þingvallavatn lake would made it unlikely that they would be able to extract the plane before next week. Assessments had yet to determine if it would be possible to recover the bodies of the victims from the crash site before that. The Cessna 172N was found in the southeastern part of the lake, at a considerable distance from the shoreline and a depth of 48 metres [157 ft]. This is a difficult depth for divers to work at, not to mention that the water temperature ranges between 0-1°C [32-33.8°F].

“It can freeze over very quickly and then you’re diving under ice,” explained Oddur Árnason, chief superintendent of the South Iceland police. This not only makes technical maneuvering difficult, he continued, “it’s downright dangerous for rescuers.”

Rescuers wait for a 48-hour good-weather window

The recovery will be co-managed by a special task force and the Coast Guard. In order to undertake the operation, the team will need a 48-hour window of fair weather.

“The forecast for the coming days isn’t in our favor,” said Oddur. “So we’re going to use this time to get set up and call for the necessary equipment and tools we need.”

“Our priority is to get the deceased to the surface, but how that will be accomplished remains to be seen.”

Death in Donation Bin Presumed an Accident

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A man in his thirties was found dead in a Red Cross collection bin in Kópavogur on Monday. Vísir reports that authorities believe the death was accidental, most likely a result of the deceased getting his hand stuck when he was trying to reach into the container.

The man was found around 8:00 in the morning after police were notified by a passerby. It is not known how long he had been stuck in the container.

“There’s nothing to say that this was anything other than an accident,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Karl Steinar Valsson, however, the final results of the man’s autopsy were not available at the time of writing. Karl Steinar said these could be delayed due to the unusually high number of post mortems that the medical examiner, Pétur Guðmann Guðmannsson, has had to conduct of late. For instance, just last Friday, said Karl Steinar, Pétur Guðmann had to conduct an autopsy on another man in his thirties died in an RV fire with his three dogs.

Pétur Guðmann is the only medical examiner in Iceland and conducts all the county’s autopsies.

Unusually high number of autopsies this year

As point of unfortunate fact, there has been an unusually high number of autopsies conducted in Iceland this year. So many, that earlier this month, another medical examiner—Snjólag Níelsdóttir, who lives and works in Denmark—had to be hired on a temporary, part-time basis to assist Pétur Guðmann at the National University Hospital four days a month. As many as 200 autopsies have been performed already in 2020, which is the same number as were performed during the whole of 2019. Pétur Guðmann says this is particularly unusual, as the number of annual autopsies in Iceland has remained basically unchanged for years.

Pétur Guðmann says that authorities have yet to fully analyze whether there have actually been more deaths of a violent or sudden nature this year or whether the increase in autopsies has more to do with police or doctors at the scene of death deciding more often that the cause of death calls for further investigation. Generally speaking, autopsies are performed at the request of police, most often in connection with suicides or unexplained deaths—those that occur suddenly, whether that be in the case of a cerebral haemorrhage, an accident, or an incident of violence. The medical examiner also performs examinations on the living, usually in connection with incidents of domestic violence. The medical examiner usually conducts around fifty such examinations each year.

Pétur Guðmann thinks it could well be possible that COVID-19 has had an effect on how much authorities depend on autopsies. A post mortem examination could, for instance, determine whether someone died from complications related to COVID-19. “Society is in a much different place in recent months,” said Pétur Guðmann, “and maybe this has had an effect on people’s threshold for requesting an examination.”

Child Dies in Shooting Accident at Home

fatal accident Iceland

An eleven-year-old boy died from an accidental gunshot wound in the capital-area town of Garðabær on Tuesday, RÚV reports. According to initial information shared with the media, the police were called to the child’s home, where the boy was found dead.

Capital-area police superintendent Margeir Sveinsson confirmed that the case was still under investigation but was not being treated as a criminal matter. A statement issued by the police reinforced this, calling the incident “a great tragedy,” but emphasizing that “there is no indication that anything criminal took place.”

Police are not providing any additional information on the matter and ask that the family be given privacy to mourn.

Young Man Dead Following Esja Avalanche

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A 23-year-old man who landed in an avalanche yesterday on Esja mountain in the Reykjavík capital area has died, Fréttablaðið reports. The man was named Sigurður Darri Björnsson and lived in Hafnarfjörður.

Police were notified that three people had been caught in the avalanche on Móskarðshnjúkar, part of the Esja mountain range, around 12.30pm yesterday. Sigurður was found around two hours later by search and rescue teams. He was transported to hospital by helicopter, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival.

Death Following Arrest Raises Questions Over Police Conduct

A 25-year-old woman died in Iceland last spring following a conflict with police, who interfered while she was in a psychotic state. The police officers were not charged even though a forensic specialist confirmed that their actions played a significant role in her death. Vísir reported on the case.

Hekla Lind Jónsdóttir was a good student with an interest in health and exercise. She began bodybuilding at the age of 18, and a short while later began using prescription drugs to aid in the process. They proved a gateway to other drugs, including amphetamines and cocaine, the use of which led to psychotic episodes. One such episode led to her arrest and, shortly after, her death.

The incident

Last April, Hekla’s parents received a call that she had gone into cardiac arrest and been taken to hospital. When they arrived, their daughter was hooked up to a breathing machine showing few vital signs. She was pronounced dead a few hours later.

Hekla had consumed amphetamine, cocaine, and sedatives the previous night, which had precipitated a psychotic episode. Her friends had called the emergency line several times to request an ambulance. Instead, two police officers appeared at the scene, which witnesses say increased Hekla’s state of agitation. Hekla attempted to run away but was eventually caught and arrested by police.

Two minutes and 14 seconds after handcuffing Hekla, the two police officers called for an ambulance, stating that she was barely conscious. Preliminary findings from the autopsy suggest that lying facedown in a constricted position while being handcuffed could have led to Hekla’s cardiac arrest.

“She died in the middle of the fight, that’s totally crazy, she died,” said one of the officers to the other after returning to the police car. While one witness heard the arrest take place, none saw the incident. The autopsy report, however, states that the police officers’ testimonies are not entirely consistent with Hekla’s injuries.

The case

The District Attorney investigated the case last year but dropped it at the end of the summer as it was considered unlikely to lead to a conviction. The case was appealed to the Attorney General, who confirmed the decision. Hekla’s parents, however, are convinced the officers used unnecessary force and their method of arrest is what led to her death. Both the Capital Area Police Department and the Reykjavík Police Association declined to comment on the case.

Czech Traveller Found Dead

fatal accident Iceland

The man who was found dead by Sprengisandsleið north of Vatnsfell last Friday was a Czech citizen, born in 1975. He was travelling by bicycle, on his own, and his family were notified with the help of the Czech consul the same day, as reported by the South Iceland police.

Nothing was found to suggest that the man’s death was a result of criminal activity but an autopsy is scheduled for tomorrow. The man had been travelling around West and North Iceland, as well as over well-known highland paths. He was travelling the Sprengisandur route from Askja to Landmannalaugar.

The South Iceland police were notified of two additional deaths last week, which are being investigated as is customary when deaths occur outside of hospitals and healthcare facilities. In these cases, an autopsy is performed, unless the cause of death can be indisputably determined or the deceased’s medical history is such that an autopsy is deemed unnecessary.

Núpsvötn Driver Remembers Little of Crash

fatal accident Iceland

Police have designated the driver of the Toyota Land Cruiser that drove over the Núpsvötn bridge in late December, as a “defendant” in their investigation, Vísir and RÚV report. According to the police press release on the incident, this legal status is automatically given to the driver in any fatal traffic accident and affords the individual certain legal protections.

The accident – which, in terms of fatalities, is one of the worst in Icelandic history – ended in the deaths of two adults and one child. Two brothers and their families were driving in the car, seven passengers in total, all of whom were British citizens. Both brothers were seriously injured in the accident, and both of their wives died. Two other young children were transported to the hospital in critical condition but survived.

The investigation into the incident remains open while police await the results of various reports, such as field measurements, site surveys, vehicle analysis, and autopsy results. Although he has been named a “defendant” in the incident, however, the driver will not be detained in connection with the accident investigation and judicial proceedings. This decision was made in light of the injuries that he sustained, as well as the medical treatment he needs to undergo as a result.

Police reported that the driver was questioned in the hospital on Tuesday but appeared unable to remember much about the accident itself. He, his brother, and the two surviving children are still in the hospital in Reykjavík, awaiting a doctor’s certificate that confirms that they have been cleared for travel back to the UK. It is assumed that all four individuals will need to be admitted into the hospital again when they arrive home, as they have all suffered injuries of varying severity.