Norway’s worst mainland helicopter crash ever turned even more tragic on Tuesday, when police reported that all five persons killed in the accident were in the same family. Other family members on the ground witnessed the fiery crash into a remote mountainside in Hardanger.
Øyvind Rossland of the Hardanger Police District told reporters Tuesday afternoon that nine persons, all of whom were related, were being flown into the remote area at Dalamot in the mountains of Ullensvang. There they planned to build a family hytte, or holiday cabin, and were transported in two separate flights.
Witness to tragedy
The first four family members were flown in Monday afternoon, and then the helicopter pilot, who also was a family member, returned to Kinsarvik to pick up the remaining group of four.
Something went terribly wrong and the helicopter crashed and exploded before the eyes of those already on the ground.
“They made an effort to save the passengers, but were unsuccessful,” Rossland said at a press conference. Poor mobile phone coverage in the area meant that one of the witnesses and family members ended up climbing a local peak to call for help.
The victims were identified as Tore Bendigtsen Ystanes, age 39 of Bergen; Kjetil Bu, age 27 of Kinsarvik; Karianne Ringkjøb Dahl, age 29 of Bergen; Siv Holtan, age 18 of Bergen and Andreas Søvik Fossmark, age 32 of Vaksdal. Ystanes was the pilot, said by his employer Airlift to be highly experienced.
No-fly zone set up
“This is an extremely tragic accident that has hit a family and several local communities very hard,” Rossland told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “The accident will be investigated and we now must wait for the results.”
Crisis teams were assembled in Kinsarvik, Eidfjord and Ullensvang to help surviving family members and friends deal with the accident.
Accident investigators from the state agency Havarikommisjonen and investigators from state police unit Kripos went to work in the area that is largely inaccessible by land because of a lack of roads. Authorities set up a no-fly zone over the accident site on Tuesday afternoon.
Airlift grounded all its helicopters and canceled all jobs as a result of the accident. “We have decided not to operate today,” Erlend Folstad of Airlift told NRK on Tuesday. “Our biggest priority are the survivors who have lost their loved ones.”
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