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