Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sad Day in NL

English language

Four dead as Queen's Day celebrations turn into tragedy

(RNW) - A car ploughed into a crowd of people in Apeldoorn today during an official visit there by the Dutch royal family. Four people were killed and 13 wounded. The authorities say it was a deliberate action.

An unidentified man in a black Suzuki Swift plowed into a crowd of onlookers in Apeldoorn, 90 kilometres southeast of Amsterdam, during a visit to the city by the Dutch royal family on the occasion of Queen's Day. Eyewitnesses, which included NRC Handelsblad photographer Merlin Daleman, said the driver "clearly intended" to ram the bus carrying the royal family on its way to the royal palace 't Loo.

The Royal Family reacting to the crash

At a press conference at 3.45 p.m., authorities said four people have been killed. Thirteen people were wounded, five of whom are in serious condition.

The driver, a 38-year-old native Dutchman, has been arrested but he could not be interrogated by police as he was being operated on. Authorities did confirm that it was a deliberate action.

Eyewitnesses say the black Suzuki crashed through the crowd barriers at the Jachtlaan at 11.50 a.m. with a speed of about 80 kilometres per hour. He was headed in the direction of the open bus carrying the royal family, which had just turned onto the Loolaan. The car came to a stop when it hit a monument on the corner of the Loolaan. Crown prince Willem Alexander and princess Máxima immediately jumped up and covered their mouths in consternation.

According to eyewitnesses, the black Suzuki had been seen earlier in the day on the Amerfoortsesteenweg. "The car was stopped by police," an eyewitness told Radio 1 news. "He turned onto a side street and took off at high speed... The driver was a 25 or 26-year old man." Other eyewitnesses added that the man was white.

After it crashed, firefighters had to use electric saws to get the drive out of the car. Around 12.17 p.m. he was carried into an ambulance. His body was not covered with a white sheet, which implies that he was still alive at the time.

The bus carrying the royal family continued to the royal palace 't Loo in Apeldoorn. The government information service RVD and the mayor of Apeldoorn later announced that all festivities for Queen's Day in Apeldoorn were cancelled. Many festivities elsewhere were also being cancelled.

Queen's Day is the commemoration of the birthday of queen Juliana (1909-2004). Over the years it has grown into a nationwide celebration of Dutchness and togetherness, attracting crowds of up to 800,000 people in Amsterdam alone.

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