AVALANCHE UPDATE: Atle Husby, 42, local teacher and musician, killed in Saturday’s avalanche


Atle Husby, 42, a teacher at Longyearbyen School and a musician involved with numerous projects, including the Store Norske Men’s Choir and the bluegrass band Blåmyra, was killed in Saturday’s avalanche that struck ten homes, The Governor of Svalbard confirmed Sunday afternoon.

“I’m thinking about how small we are when nature hits with full force,” wrote Tom Ramberg, a retired school and city employee, in a post on his Facebook page Sunday morning. “I lost my best friend yesterday, and three small children lost their beloved father, and a small community lost one of it’s biggest assets in yesterday’s avalanche in Longyearbyen, Svalbard (Huippuvuoret). I’m glad I knew him and totally devastated now that he is no more.”


Atle Husby, center, joins other brass players in a performance of “When You Wish Upon a Star” during a St. Lucy’s celebration and concert Dec. 13 at Svalbard Church. Screenshot is from a YouTube video of the concert by Laurits Finjord (click image to view).

Laurits Finjord, a Telenor employee and member of the men’s choir, said he found out about Husby’s death relatively soon after the avalanche that buried his home and nine others Saturday morning. Finjord, who was helping coordinate rescue crews in Lompensenteret at the time, said he immediately had to console a young woman close to Husby.

“Two hours later she had to comfort me,” Finjord said.

He described Husby as a natural musician, able to play the tuba, banjo, mandolin, sing and more in a wide variety of settings.

“You could just give him an instrument and he could play,” Finjord said.


Atle Husby, left, rehearses with other members of the Store Norske Men’s Choir at the Kulturhuset cafe in October of 2014. Photo courtesy of the Store Norske Men’s Choir

Husby was also active in labor issues, including serving as one of featured local speakers during a two-hour nationwide strike in January of 2014 protesting proposed changes to Norway’s Working Environment Act.

A memorial service at Svalbard Church is planned at a date and time to be announced.

The governor’s office confirmed Saturday afternoon one person had been killed in the avalanche. Blåmyra, in a post on its Facebook page at about 2 a.m. Sunday, wrote “tonight we light candles and think about Blåmyra’s Atle. Always in our hearts.”