A married lesbian couple is being credited with saving 40 young people from the right-wing shooter who gunned down 76 people in twin attacks in Norway on July 23.
Hege Dalen and her spouse Toril Hansen were having dinner on the shore opposite a youth campsite on Utöyan Island when Anders Behring Breivik, a self-described fundamentalist Christian, opened fire there. Breivik reportedly told police he hoped to incite a war on Muslims.
“We were eating. Then shooting and then the awful screaming. We saw how the young people ran in panic into the lake,” Dalen told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat.
The newspaper reported that the couple immediately took action and drove their boat to the island, where they picked up victims in the water who were wounded and in shock, then transported them to the opposite shore to the mainland. Between runs they saw that bullets had hit the right side of their boat.
The newspaper reported: “Since there were so many and not all fit at once aboard, they returned to the island four times. They were able to rescue 40 young people from the clutches of the killer.”
Norway’s Television 2 verified the accuracy of the Finnish account by phone, adding that the Norwegian government has publicly noted the couple’s actions.
Breivik’s killing spree began with a car bombing in Oslo that was intended to target Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. The prime minister was not injured in the attack, but seven others died and more than 15 were seriously wounded.
Hours after the bombing, Breivik entered the youth camp, dressed as a police officer. He told camp leaders that he was conducting a routine precautionary check following the Oslo bombing.
Once he gained access to the camp, Breivik opened fire on everyone in sight.
Breivik has confessed to authorities for the killings.