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25 July 2011

Norway rescuer had to make life or death choices

UTVIKA, Norway — Otto Loevik had to decide who to pick up on his boat and who to leave behind as he came under fire trying to rescue teenagers fleeing a massacre in which 86 were killed by a far-right Norwegian gunman.

"He remembers the faces of the youths he left behind," Loevik's wife, Wenche, told Reuters.

He rescued some 40 to 50 terrified youths fleeing Anders Behring Breivik's killing spree on Utoeya island. He came under fire himself and saw the bodies of dead youths floating in the water, his wife said.

"He told me: 'I had to chose who to pick up on the boat and who to leave behind. Who do you choose?'," Wenche Loevik said.
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Police are searching for four or five people still missing at Tyrifjord lake, two days after Breivik staged the worst massacre by a single person in modern times.

Otto Loevik, who declined to be interviewed, was one of several campers who came to the rescue of the youths Friday, transporting them to the Utvika campsite and rushing back again, throwing lifejackets to those they could not take on board.

Dressed as a policeman, the killer lured many of the children into believing they were safe before shooting them at point-blank range, witnesses have told Reuters. Many jumped into the water to try to swim to shore.

Speaking Sunday outside the family's tent, a stone's throw from Tyrifjorden lake with Utoeya island visible a few hundred meters away, Wenche Loevik said people on shore brought jumpers, blankets, anything to bring warmth or comfort.

"Maybe 200 to 300 children arrived at the camp," she said. "Most of them were terrified when they saw us. They did not know whether they could trust us. They were crying, trembling, hysterical."

She said: "Eventually they did. One kid asked me: 'Can I get a hug?' ... I wonder how many more kids would be dead if we had not been there."

Otto Loevik declined to interviewed as did many of the other men who were on the lake.

Memorial service
Earlier Sunday, victims and relatives gathered to mourn at a memorial service at Norderhov Church, not far from the island. The service was attended by Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette Marit.

They lit candles and sang hymns together, but otherwise remained silent. Bishop Laila Riksaasen Dahl spoke of the "boundless grief" experienced by all present.

"It is inconceivable for us all and words help little. Words cannot fill the void," she said. "This day is empty. Walls are missing in our house and words turn into sounds."
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Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, who had visited Utoeya island the day before of the massacre, spoke of how the young people he had met had enriched his life by their commitment and passion.

"We must spend a whole future to understand," he told the congregation.

At the Sundvolden Hotel, in a small town near the forested island, several relatives were waiting to hear whether their children were alive or dead.

"We are still waiting, we are still hoping," said the uncle of a young woman who had been at the island and is one of those still missing. He declined to give his name.

Police continued to search for the missing but said it was unlikely they will be found alive.

Two girls left flowers at the pier near the island. Both were friends of several of those killed.

"We wanted to be there to pay our respects and remember our friends," Mathilde Fendeland, 15, from Hoenefoss.

"We need to continue as before," said Oona Victoria Kaiser Dalen, 15.

- Reuters/MSNBC