Body parts found at Hercules crash site

Rescue workers found human remains on Sweden’s highest peak where a Hercules military transport plane crashed on Thursday afternoon with five Norwegian crew members on board, all of whom are believed to have perished.

Police told reporters they believed the plane had exploded upon impact and were convinced there were no survivors.

The head of Norway’s Armed Forces, Harald Sunde expressed his sorrow over the news that the crew of the Hercules, which lost radio and radar contact shortly before 3pm on Thursday afternoon, had perished in the crash.

“It is with great sadness that we note that we have now lost five of our valued colleagues,” he told Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, adding that his thoughts were with the crew members’ loved ones.

Rescue efforts were called off around 5.30pm on Saturday evening, said Börje Öhman, spokesperson for the Norbotten County police.

The decision was taken after dogs found human body parts near the crash site on Mount Kebnekaise, Sweden’s highest peak.

“It took place in consultation with the Norwegian authorities and relatives in Norway have also been informed of the decision,” he said.

Police are convinced that all five crew members died in the crash.

“There’s no doubt this is the right aircraft; we found the flight plan used by the captain for this trip,” said Öhman.

“The accident commission says that when a plane of this size flies into a mountain face, like this one has done, it probably explodes, which probably also happened in this case.”

The explosion that is believed to have taken place when the Hercules slammed into the mountain set off an avalanche, and it was in the avalanche area where the body parts were found.

Thousands of pieces of debris from the crashed Norwegian cargo plane have been found in the area, both on the east and west sides of the Kebnekaise Massive at an altitude of 1,500 metres and above.

Work also continues to gather more facts about the flight and what may have led the aircraft, which was flying from Evenes in northern Norway to Kiruna in the far north of Sweden as part of a military training exercise, to crash into the side of the mountain.

“There are two scenarios. One is that we have all the data – the black box as it’s called. If so, we may not be as reliant on the accident site. The other is that we have sparse data and then we have to document the site very thoroughly,” accident investigator Agne Widholm from the Swedish Accident Investigation Authority (Statens haverikommission – SHK), told the TT news agency.

“In that case we may not really be able to begin working in earnest until May when the snow has melted.”

Swedish accident investigators are working together with experts from the Norwegian Air Force and Norway’s accident investigation agency.

So far, a total of 20 people, including seven Swedes, are involved in the probe into the fatal crash of the Hercules.

The crashed aircraft is a C-130 J “Super” Hercules transport plane manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the United States.

The plane is one of four C-130 Js ordered by the Norwegian air force in 2007, the first of which was delivered in November 2008.

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Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland

Norway, which has suspended the use of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine until further notice, will send 216,000 doses to Sweden and Iceland at their request, the Norwegian health ministry said Thursday.

Norway to send 200,000 AstraZeneca doses to Sweden and Iceland
Empty vials of the AstraZeneca vaccine. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

“I’m happy that the vaccines we have in stock can be put to use even if the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Norway,” Health Minister Bent Høie said in a statement.

The 216,000 doses, which are currently stored in Norwegian fridges, have to be used before their expiry dates in June and July.

Sweden will receive 200,000 shots and Iceland 16,000 under the expectation they will return the favour at some point. 

“If we do resume the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, we will get the doses back as soon as we ask,” Høie said.

Like neighbouring Denmark, Norway suspended the use of the AstraZeneca jab on March 11 in order to examine rare but potentially severe side effects, including blood clots.

Among the 134,000 AstraZeneca shots administered in Norway before the suspension, five cases of severe thrombosis, including three fatal ones, had been registered among relatively young people in otherwise good health. One other person died of a brain haemorrhage.

On April 15, Norway’s government ignored a recommendation from the Institute of Public Health to drop the AstraZeneca jab for good, saying it wanted more time to decide.

READ MORE: Norway delays final decision on withdrawal of AstraZeneca vaccine 

The government has therefore set up a committee of Norwegian and international experts tasked with studying all of the risks linked to the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which is also suspected of causing blood clots.

Both are both based on adenovirus vector technology. Denmark is the only European country to have dropped the AstraZeneca
vaccine from its vaccination campaign, and said on Tuesday it would “lend” 55,000 doses to the neighbouring German state of Schleswig-Holstein.