Rescue worker fell through ice - first deadly firefighter accident in Finland in 18 years
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A rescue worker died in an ice road accident off the Oulu coast in Finland on Tuesday, according to the Oulu-Koillismaa Rescue Department.
"We haven't had an on duty firefighter death since 2004", says Taina Hanhikoski at the Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK, and also a representative of CTIF Finland.
According to an online article from Finish television station YLE, the accident occured on a ice road at sea, off Finland's western coast.
The rescue worker fell through the ice while responding to an accident involving ice road equipment which had been partially submerged. The equipment which had fallen through the ice was a so called tamping machine. The operator had been able to exit the vehicle without assistance.
Rescue units from Hailuoto island, Raksila, Linnanmaa and Liminka responded to the scene after receiving the call at 10am.
The accident occurred a few kilometers off of Hailuoto island, where the ice road connects it to the mainland in the Oulu district of Oulunsalo.
The ice road was closed to traffic on Tuesday due to safety concerns.
Authorities have opened an investigation into the accident.
"The worst thing that can happen"
Local rescue agencies called for flags to be flown at half-mast and to hold a moment of silence at noon Wednesday, according to YLE.
Juha Richter, board chair of the Oulu-Koillismaa Rescue Department, said the accident shocked the whole agency.
"[The death of a colleague] is the worst thing that can happen," Richter said.
"Everyone knows this is a risky profession, but when something like this happens it becomes more concrete. Rescue workers may have to face death in their work, but the death of a coworker is an entirely different matter."
He said the department has reached out to the victim's relatives and colleagues, adding that crisis support services were being made available to those requiring them.
Photo Credit: Ice Road on Lake Saimaa in Finland. Photo taken in 2009, by Wikipedia.