NATO’s huge military exercise dubbed “Trident Juncture” was officially getting underway this week, but its start was marred by two accidents that hit Norwegian newscasts. The accidents on Tuesday involved several military vehicles and a bus carrying civilians.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that seven US military vehicles were involved in the first major accident on slippery roads on Trøndelag. A few hours later, another military vehicle crashed into a civilian bus in the same area.
Injuries were so serious in the first accident that two American soldiers were airlifted to St Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim. A third American soldier was sent by ambulance while a fourth accident victim could be treated at a local emergency hospital.
Norwegian defense officials told NRK that all 18 people riding in the seven vehicles involved in the first accident were from the US, which is among the more than 30 countries taking part in Trident Juncture. A Norwegian defense helicopter equipped for medical emergencies was also sent to the scene.
US Marines taking part in the exercise have been undergoing training for driving on slippery winter roads in Norway. That didn’t prevent the seven US vehicles from crashing into each other and spinning out of control during a snowstorm on County Road 705 at Langsvola, located between Tydal and Røros in Trøndelag.
They were part of a military convoy that suddenly was disrupted after some of the vehicles collided and others landed in ditches along the road on Tuesday afternoon.
Around four hours later, Norwegian police were alerted to another traffic accident involving military vehicles, this time on state highway RV30 at Glåmos in Røros. It involved a military vehicle and a civilian bus. Local motorist Ole Håkon Østby told NRK that he was driving over the mountain himself when he was suddenly confronted by a man in military uniform waving his hands.
Østby swerved off the road himself to avoid hitting the man. “It was incredibly slippery in the area,” Østby told NRK, adding that his own vehicle then became stuck in the snow. He said a military vehicle was lying on its side in a nearby ditch with two of its wheels in the air. The driver of the bus sustained minor injuries.
The road was blocked and Colonel Eystein Kvarving of the Norwegian defense department said all military traffic in the area was halted because of the bad weather. “If there really was a war going on, we would have kept driving,” Kvarving told NRK, “but consideration for our troops and others takes precedence during a military exercise.”
67 ‘incidents’ so far
The Norwegian military reported, meanwhile, that it has recorded a total of 67 accidents and complaints since NATO troops and military equipment first started arriving in Norway in August. As of Tuesday, 13 reports involved complaints from civilians while 54 were “environmental incidents” involving alleged pollution, damage to agricultural land, animals, infrastructure and roads. They included a total of 10 accidents involving military vehicles.
The accident rate was said to be in line with earlier military exercises. Trident Juncture, meanwhile, is the largest NATO exercise to be held in Norway since the Cold War, involving around 50,000 soldiers, 250 aircraft, 65 vessels and thousands of vehicles taking part in operations that extend from Fredrikstad in the south to Trondheim in the north. It runs through November 7.