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.

Divers Have Six Minutes to Retrieve Bodies from Lake

plane crash

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.

Divers Collect Trash in Silfra Fissure

Two people scuba diving in Silfra Fissure

A small group of divers collected trash from the Sifra fissure in Þingvellir National Park this weekend, Vísir reports. The group started its trash-collecting project in April, diving for trash off the coast of the town of Garður on the Reykjanes peninsula. In the coming weeks, they plan to continue collecting trash in lakes and along shorelines in Southwest Iceland.

“Today, divers took it upon themselves to collect trash in Silfra and along its banks,” read a post on the Þjóðgarðurinn á Þingvöllum / Thingvellir National Park Facebook page. “On the surface, the weather was punishing for the trash collectors, but under it, everything was relatively calm. Various items were collected, such as a single snorkel and fin, beer cans, cigarette butts, and coins.”

Ants Stern and Jóna Kolbrún Sigurjónsdóttir, via Thingvellir National Park (FB)

Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates in Þingvellir National Park. There is a diving site, renowned for its crystal-clear water and exceptional visibility, right where the two continents meet, drifting apart about two centimetres (0.8in) per year.