Constable Haakon Hval has been haunted by visions of victims who might have been saved had police been quicker to the hellish scene. He drove the boat police used to reach Utoeya, the island crowded with campers from the Labour Party’s youth wing, where confessed killer Anders Behring Breivik ran amok in July 2011 to kill 69.
“The plan was to gather as many (police officers) as possible and get over to Utoeya,” Hval revealed for politiforum.no, the online publication of his union.
Hval’s boat had foundered under the weight of heavily armed police officers, and his motor quit. The resultant lost time in saving Utoeya’s youth has topped the list of police failures on the infamous day.
“It feels unfair to be criticized when we think we did all we could,” said Hval.
As news of the Utoeya massacre unfolded, it was Hval who had to attach the red police dinghy’s trailer to his police car’s hitch and race for the nearest launch near Hönefoss, where local police planned to hurry over to the island.
As he raced the 8.5 kilometres to Utoeya, a call came in to return and wait for a special unit from the capital Oslo.
The boat was later filmed crossing the Tyrifjorden, a freshwater fjord, then gliding slowly to a halt. Police were saved by summer boaters whose boat they commandeered against a backdrop of gunfire and screams for help coming from Utoeya.
To the boaters’ shock, police urged them forward to help pluck terrified swimmers fleeing Utoeya out of the water. The seeming police incompetence compounded the insult of a grounded helicopter and dispatchers who seemed to mock the mobile phone calls of those who would be slaughtered.
Hval’s return with a colleague to Storoeya — the launch pad for the final police assault that would apprehend Breivik — proved fateful, as an estimated hour was lost in the ensuing police embarkation, engine-stop and re-embarkation.
Hval’s colleague Haavard Gassbakk said police were exasperated at the slowness of the dinghy before meeting boaters in the open fjord.
“We had to have a battle-worthy unit, so we filled up the boat,” said Gassbakk.
“It was just too heavy,” he said.
When police finally reached Utoeya, Breivik was striding towards a schoolroom hut where 47 young people were hiding.