Communities mourn girls’ deaths

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Investigations continued on Monday into how a car struck and killed two young girls in a horse and wagon near Bjørkelangen in Aurskog-Høland on Saturday. A vigil was held for the girls on Sunday night, and a memorial was held on Monday at the girls’ schools.

Tiril Alette Huser Bølge, aged 11, and 13-year-old Sara Christiane Holmedahl Sandsmark were traveling in a horse-drawn carriage on road 229 just south of Bjørkeland on Saturday afternoon. The girls were members of a nearby riding school, and police believe they were headed back to the stables when they were hit from behind. Both girls died in hospital on Sunday morning, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

There were no witnesses to the accident. Bjørkelangen police chief Svein Engen said it happened on a stretch of road where drivers frequently speed, but it did not appear that the car was going too fast. The driver was a man in his 4os who lived in the area. He was charged with negligent driving, and while police took blood tests they don’t think drugs or alcohol were a factor.

Engen said the investigation was still underway on Monday. “We’ll gather the threads from the investigations over the weekend, including conducting a technical investigation of the car and take several witness statements,” he said. The driver had not yet been interviewed. “He was questioned preliminarily after the incident took place, but is not in a position to be questioned now.”

Oddmund Wallevik from the Aurskog-Høland Trotting Association told NRK that it’s not the stable’s practice to train on open roads, but it’s sometimes necessary to travel along the road for a few hundred metres to reach the training ground.

Communities grieve
A vigil was held at the accident site on Sunday night. About 200 people gathered at the site, mourning Bølge who was from Nes and Sandsmark from Aurskog-Høland. Mayor Jan Arild Mærli said friends of both the girls and the driver were involved. “People have come to light candles and lay down flowers, and to hold each other,” he said. “That’s the way it is in a small community, people want to participate.”

The girls’ schools at Bjørkelangen and Framtun prepared crisis teams over the weekend to help students cope on Monday. “We’re prepared that this will take time to process,” said Anne Sverdrup, principal at Framtun school in Nes where Bølge went. “She was very social, outgoing and engaged. She was very popular at school and had a lot of friends.”

Sverdrup said a “heartwarming” memorial with speeches, music and poetry had been held for Bølge. She said the school would take things one day at a time going forward. “We want to be there for both the children and the parents,” she said. “They all react very differently. They have a whole range of emotions inside them, something we have great respect for.”

“I can see from the students’ responses that this has really affected them, and many are very upset,” said Grethe Rønning from Sandsmark’s school. Bjørkelangen has a total student body of 500 across its combined primary and high school. “It affects not only students but also the staff and the entire population of Bjørkelangen. We have never experienced something as tragic as this.”

Driver can’t remember
The driver won’t be questioned until Friday, his lawyer Gunhild Lærum told NRK. She said the man knew the two girls who he hit, and is in an “absolutely terrible” state. “He’s not able to be interviewed,” said Lærum. “He thinks of the two families who were affected, and he’s completely crushed. He explained himself to police at the scene, but doesn’t particularly remember it. It went so fast.”

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate