"This is about some measure of justice for my dead wife"
Shelagh Donovan travelled to Iceland last summer accompanied by her husband Michael Boyd and her son Stephen. She was killed in a terrible accident at Jökulsárlón lagoon. Photo/ Michael Boyd
Michael Boyd lost his wife in a terrible accident which occurred at Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in August last year. An amphibious truck reversed straight into him, his wife and his teenage son at the lagoon car park and his wife, Shelagh Donovan, was killed instantly. Boyd, who is Canadian, has heard nothing from the local police authorities since the accident and believes that security measures in the area were seriously lacking.
In an interview with Iceland Monitor he says that he finds it "disgusting" that noone contacted him after the accident, a tragedy which has caused the family indescribable pain and suffering and that the matter has taken so long in the Icelandic judicial system. Police however say that they have been in contact with the family's lawyer and staff at the tour operator company at Jökulsárlón say that they tried contacting the family in the wake of the accident.
"This was to be a fun holiday for the three of us"
Speaking to Iceland Monitor, Boyd says that this was the family's first trip to Iceland. "Our youngest child, Stephen had finished high school and was starting university in early September, 2015. This was to be a fun holiday for the three of us. Our other two children Kathleen and Hannah have jobs and could not go with us."
Boyd describes the accident as it is noted in the police report which Iceland Monitor has obtained. "Our helicopter had to leave us at Jökulsarlón for an hour to go and refuel and then we were to return to Reykjavik. This was our last stop of our trip. We had left at noon. My son and I had gone to look at some sheep that were grazing a little south of the gravel area and my wife had gone to look the other way. The last photo on her camera was one of the amphibious vehicles that she was looking at. Not the one that ran into us.
One of the last photographs taken of Shelagh, during her Iceland trip, here accompanied by her son. Photo/Michael Boyd
Her last words were "Oh my God"
We walked towards each other and our helicopter had come back and landed. The three of us were standing together looking east towards the helicopter. Its rotor was still winding down and there was some noise. We did not know that 52 meters directly behind us one of the amphibious vehicles had loaded passengers and backup up all that distance directly into us. I was in the middle, my wife was on my left and my son was on my left. We had no warning as it backed into us. My son escaped around to the right side of the vehicle, I was knocked to the ground and the vehicle passed over me. The wheel was inches from my face. My wife was directly in line with the right rear tires and was knocked to the ground and it passed directly over her. She was killed instantly. Her last words that I hear were, "What's happening, and then, Oh my God."
The camera on the boat was not working
The police report by the South Iceland Police states that the tyre of the vehicle had passed completely over Shelagh from her feet to her head. A doctor and paramedics arrived at the scene shortly after the police and put a stop to rescuscitation efforts.
The captain of the amphibian boat was immediately informed that he would get a legal status as accused in the matter. He stated in the police report that he had been backing away from the port where passengers usually board the amphibian boat. He had then gotten a signal from the employee at the port who’s job it is was to make sure it is safe to back up. Consequently, he started backing up to turn the boat around to be able to drive the road north of the bank towards the landing area where the boats usually drive out and into the lagoon. He said that he had been reversing as usual until he heard yelling and screaming but by then he had already backed over people who had been standing behind the boat. Arnar said he never saw the people. He said that there were backup cameras on all of the amphibian boats but Jaki was the only one where that equipment was not satisfactory and therefore he could not use it to see behind the boat.
Boyd says that it is impossible that the young woman signaling to the captain that noone was behind the amphibian vehicle cannot be telling the truth. "Either she is lying or she simply didn't check and look behind the vehicle. We were standing still, directly behind the vehicle, 53 metres away."
Asked whether he belives security in the area was insufficient he says that there were no barriers, no warning signs and no security in the area. "The vehicle had no backup warning sound and as you will see in the police report the vehicle had a back up camera and it was not working. I noticed a report on the internet several days after that a fence was put up around the area."
New safety measures implemented at the lagoon
As reported by Iceland Monitor last August , the company operating Iceland’s popular Jökulárlón glacier lagoon site implemented new safety measures immediately following the tragedy. A story in our sister publication Mbl.is following the accident stated that amongst the factors being investigated is "whether safety at the site is insufficient bearing in mind the magnitude of tourists visiting the lagoon."
According to figures collected by the Vatnajökull national park between 2005 - 2012, 74.000 Icelanders and 180.000 tourists visited the lagoon in 2012. With numbers of tourists constantly on the increase it can be expected that an even greater number will be visiting the lagoon this year.
As we reported last week, Jökulsárlón has been put on forced auction. The dispute over the land in which the lagoon is situated has gone on for over twenty years and is a result of an undivided death estate. The Icelandic State should buy up Iceland’s iconic Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and make it a protected national park, said the Icelandic Environment Association . Progressive party MP's Ásmundur Einar Daðason and Haraldur Einarsson yesterday put forward a proposal for the state to step in to the matter and take it up at Parliament.
According the the Landsbjörg rescue team association, security at Jökulsárlón has been greatly improved in time for the summer tourist season, new signs have been put up, parking areas have been fenced off and a life ring has been placed at the lagoon.
Some eight months have now passed since the fatal accident at the lagoon, and Boyd, who has employed a lawyer to work on the case says that he has heard nothing from the Icelandic authorities on the status of the investigation and who is responsible for the tragedy. "I have heard nothing from anyone in Iceland since we left. "
Did he receive a letter of condolences or a phonecall from the tour company operating the amphibious boats? "No, we have heard nothing, not a phonecall, not an email."
An amphibious boat identical to the one that ran Shelagh over in August, killing her instantly. Sarey Poppins Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/sarey-poppins/
Investigation in its final stages
Speaking to Iceland Monitor today, assistant chief of police at the South Iceland Police Þorgrímur Óli Sigurðsson, says that the investigation is in its final stages. "The investigation is complete but we are still waiting for some evidence, we are waiting for the autopsy report." Asked why noone had contacted the husband of the deceased and given him answers, Sigurðsson says that he has no knowledge of this. "They have a lawyer, and we have been in communication with him."
Owner of the tour company Jökulsárlón ehf, Einar Björn Einarsson tells Iceland Monitor that he cannot disclose any information on the investigation which is in the hands of the police. He does however stress that safety at the lagoon was improved immediately in the wake of the accident. Managing director of Jökulsárlón ehf, Katrín Ósk Ásgeirsdóttir says that staff tried to contact the family of the deceased following the accident. "It was hard. We couldn't get hold of them. We tried to contact them through their hotel and we sent emails." Ásgeirsdóttir also says that investigation is entirely in the hands of the police. "I understand that the relatives are unhappy about this. The investigation has taken an enormously long amount of time. It's April now and the accident occurred in August last year."
The pain and suffering is indescribable
"Our lawyer has told us that the insurance company that insures the company that owned these vehicles and conducted these tours is waiting to see if the police will lay charges and the outcome," explains Boyd. " This is not about money. This is about some measure of justice for my dead wife. The pain and suffering myself and my family have experienced because of my wife's death is beyond describing to you."