The pilot of a Cessna 172 that crashed into one of Iceland’s largest lakes was Haraldur Diego, 50, president of AOPA Iceland, that country’s branch of the worldwide pilots organization. All four onboard the Feb. 3, two-hour sightseeing flight were killed and their bodies later located about 150 feet underwater in Lake Thingvallavatn, roughly 30 nautical miles east of Reykjavik Airport. The two-day search involved more than 1,000 responders, a Royal Danish Bombardier 604 Challenger search aircraft and a remote-control submarine. It is said to be the most extensive search operation in the past five years.
The passengers included 22-year-old American skateboarder and YouTube star Josh Neuman. According to an AP report, the flight was launched, at least in part, to create commercial brand content for a Belgian fashion house. The company’s sponsorship manager, 27-year-old Tim Alings of the Netherlands, was among the dead, along with Belgian Nicola Bellavia, 32, described as a “skydiver and social media influencer.”
According to AOPA’s U.S. headquarters, Diego ran Volcano Air Iceland, an aerial photography tour company. He contacted air traffic control with a routine exchange about an hour into the mission but was not heard from again. There was no distress call.
AOPA U.S. President Mark Baker said in a statement, “I was fortunate to know Haraldur on both a professional and personal level. He was a tireless supporter of GA in Iceland and beyond its borders, and an energetic person who threw himself 100 percent into everything he did. As the leader of AOPA Iceland, Haraldur was an ideal role model and advocate for GA. He brought tremendous energy to flying and inspired everyone he met.
“Haraldur will be greatly missed.”
Former Secretary-General of IAOPA (AOPA’s international membership unit) Craig Spence said that Diego “would light up the room” at meetings, and that “he cared most about flying, Iceland, and spending time with people.”