Iceland Mag

10 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Accidents, Search and Rescue

Traveler rescued by local fishermen after falling from ocean cliffs Arnarstapi village

By Staff

  • The cliffs at Arnarstapi The cliffs between the villages of Arnarstapi and Hellnar are renowned for their birdlife and beautiful formations. Photo/GVA

  • Jóhannes and his wife Herdís Jóhannes is a fisherman. He operates the Arnarstapi fish and chips with his wife. Photo/Ólafsson

A foreign traveler who fell from steep cliffs into the ocean at Arnarstapi village on Snæfellsnes peninsula in West Iceland was rescued from the ocean after spending at least fifteen minutes in the freezing water. He was exhausted and unable to move when he was finally pulled from the water. The man was airlifted to the National University hospital in Reykjavík.

Slipped and fell into the sea
The accident took place at one in the afternoon on Sunday. The man, a foreign traveler, had bee walking with a group of people along the cliffs west of Arnarstapi harbor when he appears to have slipped and fallen off the cliffs down into the ocean. The accident took place near Miðgjá, a beautiful rock formation and rock arch.

Two local men heard of the accident rushed to prepare their boats. Jóhannes Ólafsson, who operates a fish and chips wagon in Arnarstapi and Geir Högnason, a farmer, decided to take just one boat, rather than two, as it would speed up the rescue operation. The team added a third man to the rescue party and sailed out to reach the traveler. 

Good fortune, good weather and quick response from locals
Jóhannes told the local newspaper Morgunblaðið that it took just 15 minutes to locate the man after the accident took place. The man had managed to grab a hold of the rocks, where he was hanging for his life. Jóhannes told Morgunblaðið that fortunately the sea was calm: Had there been high waves it would have been difficult to locate the man, and it would no doubt have been far more difficult for him to cling to the rocks.

A rescue line was thrown out to the man and he was then pulled onboard the boat. By this time he was completely exhausted. "By this time he was unable to move" Jóhannes told Morbunlaðið. "Only his head was above water, but we managed to pull him out of the water and get him into the boat." The man was still conscious, but extremely cold.

A helicopter from the Icelandic Coast Guard airlifted the man to Reykjavík.

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