UPDATE, 19:42: The tourist in question was unfortunately found dead by rescuers at around 19:00 this evening, RÚV reports. More details to follow tomorrow.
David Kelley, a tour guide who was today working for Hidden Iceland, called the Grapevine just moments ago to report he had witnessed a group of tourists with another company get hit by a sneaker wave at Reynisfjara beach. One of them has been swept out to sea, and a rescue search is currently underway.
By David’s account, he was taking photos at the beach when he noticed some three or four tourists near the cave at the eastern portion of the beach. The group were hit several times by so-called sneaker waves, i.e., waves of sudden and unexpected strength and intensity.
While most of these people were able to right themselves and make their way back up the beach, one of them was swept away.
David called 112, the emergency service’s number, immediately. By his account, the response was swift, as police, rescue teams, a helicopter and a rescue boat were all deployed. The weather conditions in the area were reportedly poor, and the last he saw of the person who was taken by the waves, he estimated they were about 200 metres from shore. They have not been recovered at the time of this writing.
As a guide himself, David is well aware that the beach features signs in multiple languages advising people to stay away from the water, and that guides advise their tour groups to do the same, but their power to control tour groups is limited. The guide in charge of this tour group was reportedly beside himself with grief over the incident.
Reynisfjara, while beautiful, is not a beach to be trifled with. Falling rocks and sneaker waves—sudden powerful waves capable of dragging people into the undertow—are not uncommon.
Visitors are strongly advised to give the surf a wider berth than you may think necessary. Stay closer to where the sand and earth meet, far from the water. We at the Grapevine encourage our readers to exercise extreme caution when visiting this location.
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