All Four Bodies Recovered from Lake Þingvallavatn

plane crash

The bodies of all four men who went missing after a plane crash last Thursday were recovered from lake Þingvallavatn yesterday. Rescue workers hope to recover the aircraft today.

One of the most extensive rescue efforts in recent history

Around 1,000 individuals took part in one of the most extensive rescue efforts in recent memory after a Cessna 172N aircraft went missing last Thursday. The plane had set off on a two-hour sightseeing trip carrying four people.

The Cessna was located in Þingvallavatn lake on Saturday in Southwest Iceland. 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.

Given difficult conditions and freezing temperatures, divers spent much of Wednesday planning the recovery of the bodies, lying at a depth of 37 metres [121 feet] and deeper. Each diver was only permitted a single attempt per day and a total of 20 minutes in the water.

The bodies of all four men were recovered from the lake yesterday by rescue workers, aided by a remote-controlled submarine. The bodies have been transported to Reykjavík for identification by relatives, prior to an autopsy.

Recovering the aircraft crucial to the investigation

While recovering the bodies was a priority, retrieving the aircraft from the bottom of the lake is also vital to the investigation of the crash. A helicopter from the Icelandic coast guard, which will play an essential role in recovering the aircraft today, was on the scene near Þingvallavatn yesterday to survey conditions. Divers are expected to position flotation devices beneath the plane so that it can be heaved from the water.

As reported by Iceland Review earlier this week, Ragnar Guðmundsson, an investigator at the Icelandic Transport Authority, stated that the aircraft was located at a depth of 50 metres [164 feet] and appeared to be in good shape. The investigation committee hopes to determine the amount of fuel on the plane. The longer the aircraft remains underwater, however, 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 was no “black box,” a device that records data on an aircraft, such as flight speed, elevation, and sound, aboard the plane, for such boxes are not standard equipment on the Cessna 172N model.

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.”

Missing Tourists are from the US, Netherlands, and Belgium

missing plane Þingvellir

The search for three missing tourists and their pilot continues in Þingvellir National Park after their plane went missing yesterday morning. The small sightseeing plane took off yesterday at 10:30 AM for a two-hour tour but did not return when scheduled. Cell phone data has given rescue crews reason to narrow the search to the Þingvellir area.

The missing plane is a Cessna 172N model and was piloted by Haraldur Diego, an experienced local pilot. The Washington Post reports that the three missing tourists are from the US, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Hundreds are taking part in the search for the missing four, including search-and-rescue teams, police, and the Icelandic Coast Guard. Conditions at the scene are cold and windy. Divers are on location and crews are using sonar devices to search in Þingvallavatn lake.

missing plane Þingvellir
Golli. Rescue crews at Þingvellir, February 4, 2022.