The wrong helicopter and a sinking boat: Why it took special forces so long to reach Norwegian island massacre

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 6:42 PM on 24th July 2011


Questions are being raised as to why it took Norwegian police and special forces an hour to reach the island of Utoya - as gunman Anders Behring Breivik indiscriminately opened fire on his unsuspecting victims.

It has emerged that special forces in Oslo did not have an operative helicopter available that could take them straight to the island.

And when they finally arrived after a 28 mile trip by road to Hoenefoss,  opposite the island, 60 minutes after receiving the first reports of the shooting, they could not find a suitable boat to use.

Delayed: Questions are now being asked as to why Norwegian Special Forces took an hour to reach the island of Utoya

Delayed: Questions are now being asked as to why Norwegian Special Forces took an hour to reach the island of Utoya

The one they did board almost sank because their equipment was too heavy - and they had to continuously bail out water as they made the crossing.

 

Police spokeman Johan Fredriksen told a press conference this afternoon that: 'The police helicopters are only useful for observation, not for transporting groups of police.

'For transport we had to rely on assistance from the military.'

POLICE RESPONSE TO ISLAND MASSACRE - TIMELINE:

5.26pm: Northern Buskerud Police get first notification of the shooting

5.30pm: There is an informal statement to police in Oslo

5.38pm: There is a formal statement to the Oslo police and an emergency squad is directed to Utoya

6.25pm: Emergency Squad land at Utoya

6.27pm: Breivik surrenders without resistance

It comes as Norwegian newspaper VG reports that an off-duty plain-clothes officer on the island was also a victim of Breivik.

Police operations chief in the northern Buskerud County Erik Berga said earlier today: 'When so many people and equipment were put into it, the boat started to take on water, so that the motor stopped.

'The boat was way too small and way too poor.'

The delay allowed 32-year-old Breivik to go about his deadly work undisturbed by police for an hour after the first reports of gunfire.

Sissel Hammer, the police chief in Hoenefoss, said she understood why critics 'think it took too long for the police to come' but said they had moved as quickly as possible.

Hammer said: 'I ask for understanding of the fact that it takes time to send out a special armed force.

'The personnel have to be notified, they must put on protective gear, arm themselves and get out to the area.'

Oslo's acting police chief Sveinung Sponheim, who had previously said Breivik spent almost 90 minutes firing at young Labour Party members as they fled around the island or dived into the large Tyrifjord lake, admitted his previous time estimate was 'a bit high'.

While rescue workers pause (top left) a small submarine (bottom right) is prepared to examine the waters around the island where the shootings took place to see if there are any more bodies of victims to be recovered

While rescue workers pause (top left) a small submarine (bottom right) is prepared to examine the waters around the island where the shootings took place to see if there are any more bodies of victims to be recovered

And he defended his special anti-terror unit's decision to travel some 45 km to the scene by road instead by helicopter.

He said: 'It was faster going by car because we would have had to get a helicopter from the base down south and that would have taken longer.'

He said the only helicopter available to the Oslo-based unit was parked 50 to 60km south of the capital at Rygge airport.

Critics within the police have long complained that the 'Delta' anti-terrorism unit is short of transport capacity.

Berga said that when Oslo's Delta unit arrived at the pier across from Utoeya its leaders commandeered recreational boats to cross over.

Police sources said there had been much internal police debate over whether the first responders should have approached the island without waiting for the Oslo force.

 

 

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

In an ideal world every Police station will have all types of transport and a full array of weaponary for every eventuality...? And perhaps highly trained units will be sitting around just incase...? And if a bomb goes off in the Capital they won't respond incase it is a diversion...? I wish I had the hidsight of a Daily Mail reporter....!!!!!

Click to rate     Rating   39

Standard US police tactics prior to the High School Columbine massacre were for SWAT teams to surround the building and cordon off the area. One the perimeter was secured then they would move in. Well, guess what, that just gave the killers more time to kill. Now the method of operation is to immediately move in towards the shooting; no sitting up commands centers, etc. Just get in fast and take the bad guy down. The Norwegian forces really bungled this with tragic consequences.

Click to rate     Rating   11

Surely there is an armed capability available from every police office, in a dispersed country like Norway, where so many still live on the land. Surely everything hasn't become centralised & fallen hostage to the ealf 'n safety mentality. If the very existence of a so called 'Delta' unit is what led to this delay in getting any response to the island then they ought to seriously consider what positive difference this 'Delta' provides.

Click to rate     Rating   10

"The personnel have to be notified, they must put on protective gear, arm themselves...".....................................................................................You would think the special forces would have got dressed shortly after Norway's largest explosion since WW2! I mean just in case they might be needed (shakes head)............I sense a considerable shake up in Norway's law enforcement and special ops.

Click to rate     Rating   16

I had always assumed the Norwegian police would be efficient........how wrong can you be?

Click to rate     Rating   8

easy to criticise with hindsight; I'm sure these guys did what they were trained to do. Don't forget they would not have had much practice for an event such as this ..........

Click to rate     Rating   36

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