I don’t know why I was so shocked to read in the news this morning that the man found dead in his car in the Norðurá river yesterday was Dr Karl-Ulrich Müller, the German ambassador to Iceland. He had been driving up to the north of the country and apparently his car went off the road and landed in the river.
Perhaps it’s the same phenomenon as when you’re shocked that celebrities die in accidents — as though they weren’t mortal.
Or because it hit slightly close to home. A few years ago I worked for the British Embassy here in Reykjavík, which shares premises with the German Embassy. There was a great deal of interaction with the German staff through a shared kitchen and other facilities. That was before Dr Müller’s time as ambassador – I had never met him – but still, it somehow makes the tragedy slightly more real.
This also highlights, yet again, what a dangerous place Iceland can be. Its formidable nature holds so many dangers and people are not always adequately prepared. Tourists are particularly vulnerable; that is why it is so strongly emphasized that they should never, for example, set off on a hike alone, without telling somewhere where they’re going and what time they expect to return. And of course driving in Iceland holds its own particular set of dangers, with the gravel shoulders, free-roaming sheep, one-lane bridges and two-lane highways, etc.
This is not to imply that Dr Müller didn’t take the proper precautions — I have no idea about the circumstances of his accident, and Icelanders are certainly not exempt when it comes to traffic accidents. No doubt the roads were icy and hence this outcome … in any case, a very sad event.