UPDATED: The doctor and pilot on board a medical rescue helicopter were killed when it crashed at Sollihøgda west of Oslo on Tuesday after hitting high-voltage power lines. Witnesses told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that the helicopter, which was on its way to a traffic accident in the area, “just fell right down to the ground.”
There were three people on board the helicopter operated by Norsk Luftambulanse, the Norwegian air ambulance service. “It is with deep sorrow that we confirm that two of those on board the helicopter have died,” the ambulance service wrote on its website. “Their families have been notified.”
The two victims were later identified as Dr Anders Rostrup Nakstad, age 38 from Skedsmo, and pilot Bjørn Nergård, age 52 from Ski. Both were said to be among the ambulance service’s most experienced personnel.
The lone survivor on board, the 51-year-old rescue worker, was in turn rushed to Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo. He was said to have serious injuries.
“All of our employees are deeply affected by this incident,” the ambulance service wrote. Prime Minister Erna Solberg was among those expressing condolences on Tuesday afternoon: “This is of course an incredibly sad accident,” Solberg told NRK. “It’s very sad when those sent to help others in an emergency situation are themselves subject to an accident.”
An investigation was launched immediately into the cause of the crash, and the state accident board (Havarikommisjonen) later blamed it on the collision with the power lines. Witnesses told NRK that the helicopter tore down the lines as it crashed to the ground. “We can with good certainty say that a high-voltage line was the direct reason for the crash,” Tor Nøstegård, leader and inspector on the board, told NRK.
Three other air ambulances, a Sea King rescue helicopter, a police helicopter and other ambulances were quickly sent to the scene of the crash on the busy E16 highway over Sollihøgda, which serves as the main highway towards Bergen and, closer, the city of Hønefoss and communities along the Tyrifjord. Sollihøgda is also a popular skiing area, and it was snowing on Tuesday morning.
Website ringblad.no reported that the helicopter had been sent to Sollihøgda after a truck overturned near the Sønsterud tunnel. It was in the process of landing to get the driver of the truck to hospital when it crashed from a relatively low height. Other emergency vehicles were already at the scene of the truck accident, “and three firefighters nearly got the helicopter on their heads,” one rescue worker told ringblad.no.
The helicopter was a Eurocopter EC-135, with a standard crew of a pilot, a doctor and a rescue worker. It was stationed at Akershus University Hospital in Lørenskog.
NRK reported that the helicopter was the same type as one that crashed into a pub in Glasgow, Scotland in November. The problem with the Glasgow helicopter didn’t appear to affect those run by Norsk Luftambulanse, which chose not to ground its fleet of 11 such helicopters. Nor was Norsk Luftambulanse told to ground its fleet by Norwegian aviation authorities or the helicopter’s producer.