A 75 year-old woman from Pennsylvania on her fifth trip to Iceland drowned Saturday at Reynisfjara beach, South Iceland, after a large wave crashed into the shore and pulled her out to sea. The woman was traveling with Kynnisferdir Tours along with her family, who witnessed the event.
The tour group stopped at the beach for its popular scenic view, looking out over the rock formations and cliffs by the sea. It is a known danger to go too far down the beach because of the massive waves that can rise up without warning and pull people out to sea, reports Morgunbladid.
When the group arrived at the beach at 3:00pm the sea seemed relatively calm, with little risk of fatal waves coming in on the tide, which was not the case.
The tour guide led the group down the beach after having warned people of the waves. “The guide was standing on the beach cautioning peoples not to enter to a small cave nearby, when he heard a scream and commotion. He then saw the woman after the wave had thrown her to the beach, and was pulling her out to sea,” explains Sigrídur Ásta Hallgrímsdóttir, a manager for Kynnisferdir. “Two men tried to reach her, but had to return to land after their attempt failed.”
After the accident, the authorities were contacted immediately and Search and Rescue teams deployed along with a Coast Guard helicopter. The tour group, shocked by the series of events, was transported to Reykjavík where they were met by representatives from the US Embassy and Red Cross workers.
At 5:00pm the woman’s body was located and retrieved by the Search and Rescue team from Vík í Mýrdal.
This incident has incited considerable discussion about safety in the tourist industry. In the short term, warning signs are expected be posted at Reynisfjara beach along with a lifesaver. However, there are currently discussions of raising safety standards at tourist sites all around the country.