Speculation was running high as to why Crown Prince Haakon suddenly wound up in the water Monday evening, not far from his family’s newest summer home on an island near Kristiansand. When a few witnesses rushed to his aid, they said they were turned back by royal security personnel. Norway’s main maritime rescue service called the crown prince’s seamanship “irresponsible.”
Norway’s heir to the throne reportedly had been alone in a small motorboat in the sound known as Randesund off Kristiansand when he fell out of the pleasure craft Monday evening.
“We were sitting at our hytte (cabin) outside of Tømmersto when we spotted a boat that was circling idly in the water,” a man from Mandal told newspaper Lindesnes Avis. “It was clear there was no one on board so we called the emergency number for help and headed for the scene.
“We feared someone had fallen overboard but when we got closer we were stopped by security guards and the royal life guards. They had pulled Crown Prince Haakon up from the water, and he was soaking wet.”
Police confirmed to Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that a man had fallen in the water but wasn’t injured. Police said they received several reports from witnesses that a small boat was spinning out of control with no one on board.
A spokesman for the Royal Palace told the website for another local newspaper, fvn.no, the crown prince had failed to engage a so-called dødmannsknappen, that would shut down the boat’s motor, and was sorry about it. There was no official word as to why he had fallen overboard, or how fast the boat was traveling at the time.
Ingvar Johnsen of the rescue service Redningsselskapet told NRK that failure to use the motor shutdown button on a boat capable of doing 50 knots, which the crown prince’s was, is irresponsible.
“With Crown Prince Haakon’s background (in the Norwegian Navy) and the fact that he is a role model for Norwegian boaters, the safety rules apply especially to him,” Johnsen told NRK.
The crown prince has earlier been criticized for failing to use life vests while boating.
‘Lack of respect’
Norwegians discussing the incident on local web forums wondered why the crown prince, who has a naval education with the rank of captain, could fall off a pleasure craft, while others scolded the media for writing about the incident in the first place.
One wrote that it was “sad” and showed a “lack of respect for our royals,” while another wondered “why we need to know that Haakon fell in the water.” Another responded that “these royals … live off of being public persons,” and that what they do is in the public interest.
The crown prince’s wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, grew up in Kristiansand, where some but not all city officials support the couple’s private rental of what had been a public property on an island known as Dvergsøya. Their takeover involved the controversial closure of a large portion of the property’s coastline, to allow the couple and their children some privacy. They also own another summer property on an island farther up the coast.
NRK reported this week that the couple now will open up their place on Dvergsøya this summer, by inviting around 60 young crew members of vessels in the Tall Ships Race that will call at Kristiansand from July 29 to August 1.