Leaky boat slowed Norway police access to island

OSLO Sun Jul 24, 2011 7:03pm IST

Rescue personnel continue in their search for the missing in Tyrifjorden lake, just off Utoeya island July 24, 2011. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Rescue personnel continue in their search for the missing in Tyrifjorden lake, just off Utoeya island July 24, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

Related Topics

OSLO (Reuters) - The near-sinking of a police boat and a decision to await a specially armed unit from Oslo some 45 km (28 miles) away delayed the Norwegian police response to an island where a gunman killed 86 people.

"When so many people and equipment were put into it, the boat started to take on water, so that the motor stopped," said Erik Berga, police operations chief in northern Buskerud County.

"The boat was way too small and way too poor," he said, referring to a police vessel that had been transported to the scene from nearby Hoenefoss for crossing to Utoeya island.

The shooter, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, went about his deadly work undisturbed by police for an hour after the first reports of gunfire, other police officials said on Sunday, revising a previous estimate of almost 90 minutes.

Sissel Hammer, the police chief in Hoenefoss, said she understood why critics "think it took too long for the police to come" but said they had moved as quickly as possible.

"I ask for understanding of the fact that it takes time to send out a special armed force," Hammer said in a statement.

"The personnel have to be notified, they must put on protective gear, arm themselves and get out to the area."

On Saturday the acting police chief in Oslo, Sveinung Sponheim, said the shooter spent almost 90 minutes firing at young Labour Party members as they fled around the island or dived into the large Tyrifjord lake.

Sponheim said on Sunday his previous estimate was "a bit high" and defended his special anti-terror unit's decision to travel some 45 km to the scene by road instead by helicopter.

"It was faster going by car," he said, "because we would have had to get a helicopter from the base down south and that would have taken longer."

He said the only helicopter available to the Oslo-based unit was parked 50 to 60 km south of the capital at Rygge airport.

Critics within the police have long complained that the "Delta" anti-terrorism unit is short of transport capacity.

Berga said that when Oslo's Delta unit arrived at the pier across from Utoeya its leaders commandeered recreational boats to cross over.

Police sources said there had been much internal police debate over whether the first responders should have approached the island without waiting for the Oslo force.

Police released a timeline showing that the Hoenefoss police station first received reports of a shooting at 5:27 p.m. (1527 GMT). Local officers arrived at a pier across the water from the island at 5:52 p.m., but had to "wait for a suitable boat".

From 6:09 p.m., when the specially equipped tactical police officers from Oslo arrived at the pier, it took 16 minutes for them to arrive on Utoeya, and only another two minutes before the gunman surrendered without resistance, the police said.

FILED UNDER:

Sony Cyber Attack

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Ten Years On

Ten Years On

10 years on, tsunami warning stumbles at the "last mile".  Full Article 

Exit Polls

Exit Polls

BJP unlikely to form Jammu & Kashmir govt - polls.  Full Article 

Forceful Conversions

Forceful Conversions

BJP distances itself from religious conversions.  Full Article 

Hopeful Dhoni

Hopeful Dhoni

India's new vintage nearly ready, says Dhoni.  Full Article 

Photo

Fund Raising

Flipkart raises $700 million in fresh funding.   Full Article 

Reforms Push

Reforms Push

Modi may order insurance, coal reforms if vote delayed - officials.  Full Article 

Ali Hospitalized

Ali Hospitalized

Boxing great Muhammad Ali hospitalized with pneumonia.  Full Article 

Going International

Going International

Bollywood’s Priyanka Chopra sets sights on American TV.  Full Article 

India This Week

India This Week

Some of our best photos from this week.   Full Coverage 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device   Full Coverage