New premises and industryInstallastion of North-East Frigg

A heroic deed

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
The radio shack on Frigg received a message from the Rogaland Radio station on the mainland at 17.30 on 7 May 1981 that there was an injured man on a fishing boat. Arne Bråten, Odd Myrvang and Steinar Vestrheim, the crew of the Bell 212 helicopter, got ready for a mercy mission. This machine was normally used for shuttle transport between the Frigg platforms, but was also equipped for sea-air rescue.
— "nurse became rescue team". Facsimile from Oppland Arbeiderblad 18.05.1981
© Norsk Oljemuseum

Frigg nurse Svanhild Rolfsen joined the flight. She had come offshore that day. When the accident report was received, she was called up from the radio shack. Nobody else was keen to join the mission, and she accepted the responsibility. The fishing vessel was located 25 minutes by air from Frigg.

Weather conditions were difficult. A 45-knot wind was blowing, and the waves were steep. The young nurse attached the harness and was lowered by cable to the fishing boat. Waves and wind dropped her into the sea four or five times before she succeeded in getting aboard. Her survival suit was far too big. It had not been made for a small woman, and the cold water ran down inside.

Rolfsen recalls: “The rescue service on land asked us whether we could mobilise a helicopter from Frigg. A young man had lost part of his leg. On the way out to the fishing boat, I kept thinking about what awaited me once we arrived. I wasn’t afraid of what I’d find on the boat, but I naturally wanted to do a good job and therefore concentrated on the job. Just thinking about ships is normally enough to make me seasick, but I managed to focus on the patient and what needed to be done. But once the man was safely aboard the helicopter, I hung over the railings and threw up.”

The victim on the fishing vessel had had his limb torn off in a winch. His fellow fishermen had rendered first aid, but Rolfsen had to change the dressing and administer a painkiller. She then fastened the patient to a stretcher and got him hauled into the helicopter before she herself was hoisted back on board. The machine flew directly to Bergen’s Haukeland Hospital. By 22.00, Rolfsen and the rest of the Bell 212’s crew had returned to Frigg. The story attracted great attention.

Sven”Some time after the rescue mission, I was presented with a bowl by the head of safety as thanks for a good effort,” says Rolfsen. “Several months later, in December, a journalist from [Oslo daily] VG called. There was lots of press coverage, and I was voted “name of the year” by VG. I was then awarded the gold medal of the Norwegian Carnegie Hero Fund on the recommendation of Norway’s sea-air rescue squadron.

It all became a bit tiring after a while. I wasn’t used to being a celebrity, and had nobody to turn to for advice on how to behave in such circumstances. It was something special to become celebrated in a small town like Sandnes [south of Stavanger], where everyone knew me. Some stories appeared later. Haugesunds Avis arranged a meeting in 1982 between me and the man who was rescued, for instance.”

New premises and industryInstallastion of North-East Frigg
Published April 3, 2018   •   Updated July 1, 2020
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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