From Iceland — Tourist Fatalities Prompt Security Review

Tourist Fatalities Prompt Security Review

Published June 22, 2010

Rex Beckett

The signage and safety of popular tourist destinations is being questioned following recent accidents leading to the deaths of two tourists, according to Frettablaðið.
In early June, a German tourist plummeted to his death off Látrabjarg in the West fjords, Iceland‘s largest sea cliff. On Saturday, a second accident took place at the Silfrá fissure at Þingvellir, where a French tourist drowned while trying to help his fiancée who was stuck between two rocks.
Diving at Silfrá is welcome to all, according to Þingvellir National Park Officer Ólafur Örn Haraldson, but security of recreational diving in Iceland has been harshly criticised in the past. There are no information signs or oxygen reserves at the park, and companies offering diving trips provide little surveillance. “There have been three or four diving companies that offer scuba diving with our permission, but we are not in charge of monitoring equipment or safety,” said Ólafur.
The Director-General of the Icelandic Tourism Board Ólöf Ýrr Atladóttir says they are working on quality standards to ensure the safety of tourists in Iceland. “It is necessary to enlighten tourists about the dangers that can lie within popular natural attractions, whether it is with greater education or more informational signage,” she says. She does not think that the most recent accident at Silfrá could have been avoided by proper signage on site, although does agree that improvement is needed. “This seems to have been a human tragedy,” says Ólöf. “It is impossible to completely prevent accidents when human behaviour is involved. Signage on its own won’t make a difference.”
Tourists in Iceland should make themselves aware of potential risks before embarking on ambitious adventures in nature, as the country is wildly unpredictable and popular, yet dangerous, sites remain largely unmarked for the convenience and safety of travelers.
Photo courtesy of Ómar Runólfsson.

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