Barentsburg boat crash update (12:30 p.m. Monday): Catamaran hit dock at unusually high rate of speed; injury count raised to 37


A tour boat was going “at a significantly higher speed than usual” when it crashed into a dock in Barentsburg on Sunday, injuring 37 of the 125 people aboard, according to officials.

Ten people were sent to a hospital in Tromsø between Sunday afternoon and early Monday morning for treatment of moderate to serious injuries after the Aurora Explorer catamaran collided with the dock at about 10 a.m. Sunday. The full circumstances of the collision remain under investigation and alcohol is not believed to be a factor.

“But the boat went into the dock at a significantly higher speed than usual,” Police Chief Lt. Vidar Arnesen told NRK.

There were 121 passengers and four crew members aboard the vessel, which makes day trips between Longyearbyen, Barentsburg and Pyramiden. Most of the injured passengers are French, although some are from other countries including Norway, the United States and Denmark, and one crew member was injured.

A full-scale rescue operation involving both of The Governor of Svalbard’s rescue helicopters, the Norwegian Coast Guard, Joint Rescue Coordination Centre of Northern Norway and other agencies ensued. In addition, nine doctors and nurses flew up to Longyearbyen early Sunday afternoon to assist Longyearbyen Hospital in treating injured passengers, but the most seriously injured were flown to Tromsø.

“This is largely due to the fact that the capacity for surgery and other medical facilities are not sufficient up here in Longyearbyen,” Arnesen said.

A crisis center where food and other assistance was provided to passengers and relatives of those injured was set up during the afternoon at Kulturhuset. The Aurora Explorer returned to Longyearbyen early Sunday evening, with damage above the hull at the front of the boat from the collision clearly visible, but the vessel was in no danger of taking on water or sinking.