39 Tourists in Iceland Rescued From Glacier After Snowmobiling During Blizzard

ICE-SAR rescue teams in Iceland during a blizzard
Photo: Courtesy of ICE-SAR

A group of 39 tourists were rescued from an Icelandic glacier late Tuesday evening after a blizzard struck, according to Iceland Monitor. No injuries were reported.

The tourists were taken to Langjökull glacier by the tour group Mountaineers of Iceland despite a blizzard warning and travel advisory. Some members of the group were stranded for about nine hours before being rescued.

“We were told it was going to be quick and then it ended up being five and a half hours, hiding behind the snowmobile,” Nicole Smith, an American tourist, told the Daily Mail. “We did all think we were going to die out there, which wasn't super fun.”

The group left for their snowmobiling tour around 1 p.m. on Tuesday. While waiting for rescue, they dug snow shelters behind their snowmobiles. By 8 p.m., the rescue team was called out to the glacier. The last of the group was rescued by 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“We clearly made a mistake by going into the ice cave,” Haukur Herbertsson, the manager of operations for Mountaineers of Iceland, told The Reykjavik Grapevine. “We probably made more mistakes than that. At this point I don’t know what all of them are.”

“I don’t think it’s been made clear why they took the decision to go on the tour,” Iceland’s Minister of Tourism Þór­dís Kol­brún Reyk­fjörð Gylfa­dóttir told RÚV. “The outlying conditions were very clear. Of course one is very disappointed to see such a case. In our ministry, we have made safety a priority.”

The rescue team was comprised of at least 200 people in 57 different vehicles. They transported the tourists to a Red Cross shelter, where they were examined and given crisis counseling.

Mountaineers of Iceland also made news back in 2017, when an Australian couple got lost during one of their snowmobiling tours, according to Iceland Monitor. They sued the company. The company alleged that the couple got lost because they strayed from the rest of the group.

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