Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Accidents, Search and Rescue

Two Minnesota travelers drowned while fishing at Þingvallavatn lake on Sunday

By Staff

  • Þingvallavatn lake The lake covers a larg part of the Þingvellir rift valley. Photo/Pjetur

  • Villingavatn Villingavatn is both used to refer to a small lake south of Þingvallavatn and a part of Þingvallavatn itself. Photo/Jóhann K Jóhansson

  • At the scene The accident took place on Sunday. Photo/Jóhann K Jóhansson

Two foreign travelers drowned in Þingvallavatn lake on Sunday. The people, a couple in their 40s who lived in La Crescent in Minnesota, were fishing on the lake when the accident took place. According to witnesses and police the woman appears to have lost her footing and fallen in the deep water. The man dove into the water in an attempt to rescue her, but was overcome by the cold of the water. Attempts to resuscitate the people failed and they were pronounced dead at the National University Hospital in Reykjavík.

The accident took place at Villingavatnsós, the estuary of Villingavatnsá river which empties into Þingvallavatn. 

Fly-fishermen on their first fishing trip outside US  

Þingvallavatn lake accident
Brian and Janet The Minnesota couple were in their late 40s Photo/Star Tribune screenshot

The Minnesota newspaper The Star Tribune has identified the people as Janet Veit and Brian Schumacher. Brian was a histologist at the Gundersen Health Clinic in La Crosse, while Janet was a veterinarian at a local animal hospital. Both were avid fishermen and fly-fishing enthusiasts. This was their first fishing trip outside the US. Þingvallavatn lake is renowned for its trout and Arctic char populations. The Star Tribune reports that Janet had caught the biggest fish of her life at Þingvallavatn, a 6 pound brown trout.

Two local man who was staying in nearby cabins with their families saw the accident and rushed to the scene to retrieve the people out of the water. Attempts at resuscitation failed.

“We take odd comfort in the fact that they died together, one thinking they were going to be saved, the other thinking they were going to be the savior,” the sister of Janet told the Star Tribune. 

Note: The Star Tribune and local media offer a different account of the events leading up to the accident. According to the Star Tribune Schumacher fell in the water with Veit diving in to safe him. Local media in Iceland both Police and witnesses say it was the woman who fell in first.

Local media also did not identify the victims by name or nationality out of respect for the wishes of their families. It was only after the Star Tribune had covered the accident that the victims were identified by name in local media

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