Two young women broke their back during a boat ride organized by a sightseeing tour agency in Vestmannaeyjar islands two weeks ago, RÚV reports. One of them had to undergo surgery. Police are investigating the accident, and the captain of the boat has been temporarily relieved of his duties.
Wednesday, May 11, about 100 staff members from the Blue Lagoon took a trip to Vestmannaeyjar. Among other things on their schedule was a boat trip with the sightseeing tour agency Ribsafari, which uses so-called RIB boats, which are rigid-hulled inflatable boats for its excursions. The boats are able to reach speeds of up to 100 km (62 miles) per hour.
Aníta Óðinsdóttir, who is a lawyer for Ribsafari, commented, “This was an organized tour by Ribsafari, one of many that day. What we know is that when they come back to shore, it’s clear that the boat has sustained some kind of blow, resulting in two girls being injured.” The women are in their twenties.
The women report that the boat fell a few meters during the ride with the aforementioned results. In addition, one of them was injured in the face when she hit her head as the boat came down. The women were in severe pain after the trip and were taken to a doctor in Vestmannaeyjar, who gave them painkillers. The following day, X-rays reveled that one of them had suffered a serious fracture requiring surgery, and the other one had broken her back as well.
According to the Icelandic Met Office, the accident occurred on a windy day, with a wind speed of 8 to 15 m per second, resulting in large waves.
This is not the first time such injuries occur to passengers of Ribsafari. Two such accidents have been investigated, and a third one was never reported. Furthermore, an accident took place on a similar sort of boat in Húsavík, North Iceland.
Hrefna Margrét Erlingsdóttir sustained a compression fracture of her spine on a Ribsafari trip in 2011. She has been unable to work for three years, but received no compensation for her injuries, for the accident was never reported.
Law requires the immediate reporting of accidents on sea to the Transport Accident Investigation Board (TAIB). The May 11 accident has yet to be reported to the TAIB, according to Jón Árelíus Ingólfsson, its investigative director.
RIB boats were first taken into use in Iceland in 2011 and quickly became a bone of contention. Ribsafari and the company Gentle Giants in Húsavík both insisted on taking 24 passengers at a time, but the TAIB only allowed 12 per boat. This spring, the CEO of Gentle Giants and three captains of their boats were charged for repeatedly taking too many passengers on the boats.
Jón Árelíus worries about safety on these kinds of boats. “There is ample reason to do so,” he told RÚV. “Those are dangerous trips, and if people aren’t careful and don’t sail according to conditions, then this is what happens.”
Update: Tonight, RÚV corrected its initial claim that Hrefna's accident on the Ribsafari boat in 2011 was never reported. Vestmannaeyjar Chief of Police Páley Borgþórsdóttir told RÚV that the captain of the boat did report the accident to police. She claims that no one ever asked for the police report. Hrefna's lawyer, on the other hand, claims to have been told over the phone that the police had no report of the accident and, therefore, the time for a claim to be filed for compensation did expire. Both Ribsafari and police were required to report the accident to TAIB, but neither of the two did.