Crisis teams were called out New Year’s Eve after a 21-year-old man drove a car at high-speed in the wrong direction on the new E18 highway between Larvik and Porsgrunn. He collided head-on with a car carrying a family of five, killing the father who was driving and seriously injuring the mother and one of their three children.
The tragedy got the New Year off to a bad start, after a period when fatal traffic accidents have declined sharply in Norway because of road and highway improvements. The newly expanded and divided multi-lane E18 highway is a prime example of that, but police suspect the 21-year-old, who’s believed to have been drinking, willfully entered the highway and drove against traffic.
Driver faces murder charges
Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Tuesday that he’s thus been charged with pre-meditated murder because of what prosecutors called “reason to suspect that he knowingly and willingly drove against stated traffic directions.”
Since there were five people in the oncoming car he hit, he also faces charges of four counts of attempted murder. Police believe the young man from Telemark, who was alone in the car, drove for at least 1.4 kilometers before colliding with the car carrying the family of five, also from Telemark.
The posted speed limit in the area is 110 kilometers per hour (66mph) and the impact of the collision was so great that the wreckage of the cars was found located 100 meters (330 feet) from one another.
Arrest upon release
The young man, who survived the accident, was taken to hospital in Tønsberg where he was to be arrested upon his release. The severely injured mother and child were taken to Sykehuset Telemark, where they were listed in serious condition. The two other children suffered more minor injuries.
“Relatives have been contacted and a crisis team from the family’s home community is following up,” Lars Kittilsen, spokesman for the Telemark hospital, told Aftenposten. The highway was closed for several hours after the crash while emergency crews and state highway officials worked at the site.