Update from Friday: one person, the guide, is still critically unstable and under advanced intensive care in Tromsø. It was said today that it was four persons who actually ended up in the water. Some of the group have already returned to Russia via Norway.
Updates from Saturday are in the text, highlighted with bold formatting.
In the late afternoon today (April 27), a group of snow mobile tourists broke through the ice in Tempelfjord. The alarm went close to 18:00. To start with the most important bit of information: all persons seem to be in safety by now, there are reports about three persons being seriously injured. The status of two is described as critical.
It was a group of nine persons including one guide, all of Russian nationality, that broke through the ice in Tempelfjord between Kapp Murdoch and Kapp Schoultz. Shortly after the emergency call, Norwegian SAR forces were on location with helicopters and a coast guard ship and started to rescue persons out of the water. Several persons are now in the hospital in Longyearbyen, planes started from Tromsø with additional medical personnel and equipment and to possibly evacuate patients to the mainland. Update: one is still in critical condition. It is one of the guides, who was in the cold water for almost an hour. He got a cardiac arrest while he was lifted out of the water.
Three persons were reported missing, but it seems that they were quickly rescued by another group, taken to Fredheim, a hut on the southern side of Tempelfjord, and taken care of there.
The group included about 24 persons in total, with several guides, but 11 did not get involved in the actual accident. The group was on the way from Pyramiden to Longyearbyen, as part of a several day long trip organized by Arctic Travel Company Grumant, a Russian tour operator in Barentsburg. The part of the group not directly involved returned to Pyramiden.
Details about the accident are not yet available. The ice in Tempelfjord has become increasingly unreliable in recent years, to the degree that it was more or less absent in some years. In the last couple of weeks, however, it was traversed frequently. Update: the ice was recently crossed by private persons, but major tour operators from Longyearbyen did not cross the ice in Tempelfjord during their tours, or only near the shore. The thickness of the ice in central parts was less than required by common safety routines.
Near Kapp Murdoch, there is a permanent local zone of weakness in the ice. This weak spot, which is locally well known and called Murdoch-råka, had led to accidents before. It is not yet known if this was the site of today’s accident or if it happened somewhere else. Update: the accident did not happen at the Murdoch-råka, but somewhere on a more or less straight line from Kapp Murdoch to Fredheim, closer to the southern side of the fjord, so the Murdoch-hole was definitely not involved.
Tempelfjord with poor ice conditions in April 2014.
Source: Sysselmannen, Svalbardposten, NRK