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~ By Kathie Fry, Editor of SkateLog.com
Swedish Ice Skater Rescue Operation
Baltic Sea Archipelago - South of Stockholm
~ Article Posted Thursday March 20, 2003
On February 15, 2003 a large group
of Swedish recreational ice skaters became stranded in the open sea
when the ice started breaking up under their feet.
Here's what happened that day plus 10 incredible photos
of the rescue operation.
Copyright © Swedish Maritime Administration
The First Call for Help
On Saturday, February 15 at 12:15 p.m.
Swedish Search and Rescue (SAR) Mission Coordinator
Birger Knutsson received a distress call
from a person who said he and approximately 20
recreational ice skaters were stranded on blocks
of ice in the Baltic Sea archipelago and the ice floes drifting toward the
open ocean. Their position was approximately 60
kilometers south of the city of Stockholm:
LOCATION OF THE STRANDED SKATERS
See the blue circle near the bottom of the map
Skaters Started Falling in the Water
At the time of the call, at least one skater had fallen into the
water but they had already managed to climb back onto the ice.
A Rescue Party Was Dispatched Immediately
SAR Coordinator Birger Knutsson and the other members of his
team organized a rescue operation and immediately sent the
following boats and helicopters to the skater's location:
Helicopter #1 - CH46
Helicopter #2 - S76C
Boat #1 - Hovercraft
Boat #2 - Pilot Boat
Second Call - 50 Skaters Now Stranded
At 1:00 p.m. (13:00) the SAR
received a second distress call,
saying about 30 additional people were
stranded on drifting blocks of ice, and now
there were approximately 50 skaters who
needed to be rescued.
Skaters Stranded on Ice Floes
Rotors on Large Helicopter Sink Ice Floes
When the first helicopter (Vertol 107 CH46) arrived and
tried to lift the first skater off of the ice, the
down-force from the helicopter rotors was so strong
it caused the thin ice floe to turn over and sink,
dumping the skater in the water before he could be
hoisted up into the helicopter.
Waiting for a Smaller Helicopter
The pilot of the large CH46 helicopter decided to
land on a small rock overlooking the area,
so it could relay reports back to the MRCC.
Flights of the CH46 were limited to
picking up skaters who fell in the water,
and later shuttling skaters from the rocks and
small islands in the area to a safer spot
on a nearby larger island.
The Small Helicopter Picks Up Skaters
When the second smaller S76C helicopter arrived
it was able to rescue some of the skaters by hoisting
them into the helicopter on a rope, because that
helicopter's smaller rotor did not create enough force to
break up the ice.
Skaters Being Lifted Into the Smaller Helicopter
(be sure to select "View Larger Image" on each page)
The Hovercraft Arrives
A small seven-seater hovercraft arrived about the same
time as the second helicopter, and it joined in the
rescue operation, shuttling skaters from the now very
broken up ice to safety on small rocks and islands.
Hovercraft Picking Up Skaters
(photo taken from the pilot boat)
Pilot Boat Concerned About Breaking Up the Ice
When the larger pilot boat first arrived,
its crew was hesitant to enter the area,
for fear of breaking up the ice even more.
When it became clear that the hovercraft and
helicopter alone would not be able to rescue
all of the people quickly enough, they
entered the area and picked up 16 of the ice skaters.
Pilot Boat Picking Up Skaters
Rescue Operation Ends After 2 Hours
By at 2:20 pm (14:20) all of the skaters were safely on land,
and no one was missing or injured. Helicopters searched the area
for more skaters but they found that no one else was trapped on the
ice. Two hours after the first call was received,
the search and rescue operation came to a successful end.
From Birger Knutsson, Rescue Team Coordinator
"Skating on natural ice, especially in the Baltic
Sea archipelago, is very popular recreational activity
in this part of Sweden. The different skating clubs are constantly
searching for new snow-free sections of natural ice suitable
for skating. On this beautiful sunny day, there were reports of new
ice in the area where the incident took place.
350 skaters were taken by bus from Stockholm to this
part of the archipelago. They then divided into
smaller groups of 10 to 15 people for recreational skating,
picnics on the ice, and a good time with their friends.
A couple of these groups ventured too close
to the edge of the ice, causing it to break up.
This happened very quick leaving a group of skaters
stranded on small ice floes.
My own speculation is that curiosity
about the presence of helicopters in the area (the rescue team)
drew spectators to the area, and some of those skaters
also ended up drifting on ice floes.
But the most important thing is that no one got hurt
and all skaters were safely rescued."
From Thure Björck, Skating Club President
"I am happy none of our skating friends were injured.
The incident took place in an inlet south of Stockholm.
The ice was OK during the week before the incident,
but during the skate waves started arriving from the sea
and the ice began to break apart at noon.
The rapid arrival and efforts of the rescue team probably saved the
lives of some of the skaters on the breaking ice sheets.
The board of our skating club is investigating what caused
the critical situation and we hope this will lead to
safer skating on ice in the Baltic Sea Archipelago in the future."
Photos of the Incident
These photos were taken by the crews of the
pilot boat and the smaller helicopter.
Photos were provided courtesy of the Swedish
Maritime Administration and Maritime Rescue Coordination
Center in Gothenburg, Sweden. For each of these photos,
be sure to select "View Larger Image" to get a really
RESCUE OPERATION - PHOTO SLIDE SHOW
INDEX TO ALL PHOTOS
SWEDISH MARITIME RESCUE COORDINATION CENTER
- Birger Knutsson, SAR Mission Coordinator
- Magnus Gustafsson, Duty Officer
STOCKHOLM SKATE SAILING CLUB (SSSK):
- Thure Björck, Club President
- Ulf Haase, Club Member
Rescue Operation Photo Gallery - 13 Photos
Swedish Maritime Administration
Stockholm Skate Sailing Club
Ice Skating in the Stockholm Archipelago
Inline Skate Shop
Roller Skate Shop