It is only natural there's a subdued mood in the workshop at Ingeniør G. Paulsen in Longyearbyen. On Saturday, 21-year-old mechanic Emanuel Storaunet was killed when he was trapped by an avalanche in Fardalen, about seven kilometers south of Longyearbyen. Storaunet was alone on a snowmobile trip during his spare time when the accident occurred.
The tragedy has left a mark on everyone at the company.
"Everyone here is struggling with this," says General Manager Vebjørn Andresen. "But I also think there is a family on the mainland sitting in bottomless grief that has a great need for information."
Youngest on the team
Andresen calls Storaunet a young and skilled mechanic with whom he had a close relationship.
"Emanuel was the youngest on the team," Andresen says. "He came here in March of last year, only 20 years old and didn't have all the world's experience of being alone far from home. Since I don't have a family established here I had time to take him on trips and other things. Emanuel was a buddy in addition to being a coworker."
The youngest employee had a passionate relationship with snowmobiles. He started tinkering with chainsaws, mopeds and snowmobiles as a little boy, and could diagnose their problems.
Storaunet's family was also very important. His siblings and parents were mentioned in many conversations, and his grandfather visited Longyearbyen last year.
Much about the tragedy remains unclear. But Andresen says he has decided something should be done to try to prevent something similar from happening again. It is not the first time the company has lost an employee in this manner. In 2001, co-workers Odd Harald Daleng and Allan Rosø were killed in an avalanche, also in Fardalen.
"We've talked about safety here at work, almost ad nauseam," Andresen says. "During lunch every day we sit together with some of Svalbard's best tour producers and talk frequently about security. Most recently on Friday, the day before his accident, it was the subject of conversation."
"But we should all look at all of the procedures again. Although this happened in his spare time, we must see if we can give employees equipment that makes sure they are as confident as possible then as well."
At the equipment rental store where Storaunet worked, there is now only a jacket of his hanging and some personal belongings in the back. Andresen has started making a package containing items paying tribute to the 21-year-old's life in Svalbard, which will be sent to Storaunet's family in the Nord-Trøndelag town of Lierne.
A representative from the company visited the family immediately after it became clear that Storaunet had perished and more employees are planning to traveling down to attend the funeral in a few days.
"And we'll be sure to get all of the information the family needs in the future as much as possible," Andresen said. "It's the least we can do."