Campers rescued 150 youngsters from lake

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The Independent Online

A party of campers emerged as heroes of the Norwegian massacre yesterday, when they told how they rescued more than 150 panic-stricken adolescents from the Tyrifjord lake as they struggled to escape the bloodbath on Utoya island.

While the gunman was still shooting, campers and caravanners at Utvika, on the mainland 600 yards across the water from Utoya, manned hired rowing boats and dinghies to pluck scores of terrified young people from the water and bring them to safety.

"They were everywhere in the water," said Marcel Gleffe, 32, a German camper who rescued more than 20 youngsters on Friday. "I threw lifejackets with a rope attached to them and pulled them aboard, they were all screaming and crying," he told Der Spiegel magazine.

The campers' rescue was mounted hours before police arrived and while the gunman was stalking the island with automatic weapons. Mr Gleffe said he saw the attacker through his telescope.

He and his parents had been holidaying in their lakeside caravan when they heard the shooting. The family went down to a jetty at the water's edge to see what was happening.

"We just saw lots of heads in the water," said his mother, Heidrun. She and other campers later wrapped the traumatised youngsters in blankets and ferried them by car to the campsite office.

Mr Gleffe said he made dozens of rescue sorties in his dinghy but often those escaping feared he was the gunman's accomplice. "Some of them were shouting: 'Keep away... Don't come any closer'. Others were even asking: 'Are you going to kill us?'" he said.

Psychologists who visited the camp site said they were amazed by the campers' rescue effort but explained many had been left with feelings of guilt.

"They still think about the kids they had to leave in the water because they wouldn't fit in the boats," said psychiatrist Kirsti Oscarson.