Russian died after Svalbard snowmobile accident

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A Russian man in his 30s who was rushed to hospital in Tromsø after a snowmobile accident on Svalbard in late April was reported to have died during the night from the injuries he sustained. He was one of four guides leading around 20 Russian tourists when the ice over the fjord under them broke apart.

Six of the Russians landed in the frigid waters of the Tempelfjord on April 27. They were riding on snowmobiles from the abandoned Russian mining center Pyramiden to Svalbard’s main town of Longyearbyen in three groups when the ice gave way under the first group. Local newspaper Svalbardposten reported that five landed in the water immediately while three made it over the ice to safety.

A sixth person, a guide in the second group who tried to save some of those in the water, also landed in the water when he threw out a rope to them. They were all eventually rescued by the local police helicopter, which reached the scene of the accident around 50 minutes after receiving the first alarm. Svalbard Governor (Sysselmannen) Kjerstin Askholt told Svalbardposten her crews couldn’t have responded any faster, and added that the local Red Cross also made “a fantastic effort” to reach the remote Arctic location of the accident.

It remains under investigation, Lt Irene Sætermoen of the local governor’s/police department (Sysselmannens kontor) told Svalbardposten. The tourists were being led by a Russian firm, Arctic Travel Company Grumant, “and we will question other players in the tourism business as well, to see what routines they have for this kind of accident.” State broadcaster NRK reported there was a dispute between Arctic Travel and the governor’s office over who is responsible for determining which routes over the ice are safe to use.

The accident raises safety concerns given a huge increase in the tourism industry on Svalbard, and its prospects for much more growth. Dr Mads Gilbert of the University Hospital in Tromsø said the Russian man had been under intensive care since he was rushed to the mainland, in critical condition. Another woman rescued from the icy waters who also was sent to hospital in Tromsø was upgraded from critical to stable condition shortly after the accident.

newsinenglish.no staff