Ultimate penalty: Russian tour company fined 150,000 kr. for 2017 snowmobile tour accident on sea ice that killed guide

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A Russian tour company whose guides failed to properly evaluate sea ice conditions, resulting in an accident where nine snowmobiles fell through the ice and a guide was killed, has been fined 150,000 kroner, The Governor of Svalbard announced Thursday.

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Aleksandr Ometov, 31, a Russian tour guide, is the only guide killed leading a modern expedition in Svalbard. Photo courtesy of Trust Arktikugol.

A total of 25 people in three groups were crossing the ice from Cape Murdock to Fredheim at the Tempelfjord on April 27, 2017, when the incident occurred. While a few of the snowmobiles reached stable surfaces, six people ended up in the water and four of them remained there for nearly an hour before they were retrieved by a rescue helicopter. Seven people were injured, two of them critically.

Aleksandr Ometov, 31, a tour guide for the company, died 19 days after the accident, the first time a guide has been killed leading an expedition in Svalbard in the modern era.

There were reports some sea ice in the vicinity was unstable at the time, although the group had crossed the area safely while traveling from Barentsburg to Pyramiden, and were making the return trip when the accident occurred.

The Russian state-owned company Trust Arktikugol, operator of the tour company Arctic Travel Company Grumant, agreed to pay the fine imposed by Troms region prosecutors for violating Norway’s Working Environment Act.

“Trust Arktikugol’s travel business…had not ensured that fully responsible written instructions were drawn up for the company’s guides when it came to sea traffic, as required,” Lt. Gov. Berit Sagfossen said in a prepared statement.

The liability finding and fine were determined on the basis of an investigation of Norway’s Labor Inspectorate.

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