Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre issued condolences on Saturday after four American soldiers were killed in a plane crash in Nordland Friday night. They’d been taking part in NATO’s ongoing winter military exercises in Northern Norway.
The Norwegian Defense Department reported that a US Marine Corps aircraft crashed in the mountains known as Saltfjellet Friday night. All four Americans on board were found dead after search and rescue crews reached the remote site of the crash in the Beiarn region around 1:30am Saturday.
“Police can unfortunately confirm that all four who were on board were killed,” the Nordland Police District wrote in a press release Saturday morning. Norway’s accident investigations board (Havarikommisjonen) has been alerted and a probe into the cause of the crash is underway.
Storm warnings had been forecast earlier in the week and police reported “very poor weather” in the area that forced suspension of “further work at the scene of the crash.” It would resume “as soon as weather conditions allow,” police stated.
Norwegian defense officials said the crew on board the Amerian Osprey aircraft had been “out on a training mission” Friday afternoon and were heading north towards Bodø. The Osprey was due to land just before 6pm Friday but failed to turn up. Its last known position was over Saltfjellet, and the aircraft was reported missing at 6:26pm.
A rescue helicopter was sent from Bodø, along with one of the Norwegian Air Force’s Orion aircraft. Another rescue helicopter was scrambled from Ørland, but it was called back just before 9pm. State meteorologists warned of heavy rain and snow, strong winds and high danger of avalanches in the area. The weather was due to worsen during the weekend.
The storm made it difficult to search the mountainous area but sightings were made at 9:17pm from the air over Gråtådalen in Beiarn. The weather also made it difficult to lower search and rescue crews, both local and from the Red Cross, but they were able to head into the area of the crash with six snowmobiles around 10pm. It was well after midnight when they could finally confirm the deaths of all four Americans on board.
Condolences from the Norwegian government
“It’s with sorrow that I’ve received the message that four American soldiers were killed in a plane crash in Nordland last night,” Prime Minister Støre told Norwegian news bureau NTB on Saturday morning. “The soldiers were taking part in the the NATO exercise Cold Response. My thoughts go today to the soldiers’ families, survivors and their fellow soldiers in the division where they served.”
Police reported that their families had been notified. Military officers said the Cold Response exercises would continue.
“Right now there’s full attention on completing the rescue mission, taking care of people and then there will be normal procedures to find the reason for the accident,” Lt Gen Yngve Odlo, chief of the Norwegian defense department’s operative command, told Norwegian Broadasting (NRK). “The exercise will continue, in accordance with weather conditions for Nordland and Troms through the weekend.” The four crash victims were referred to as “allied and good colleagues of us.”