Deadly attack on Queen’s Day
A car that drove straight through a crowd of people in Apeldoorn at the moment the royal family was passing by, did so deliberately.That was confirmed by the authorities at a press conference. The drama cost the lives of five members of the public, and a further 12 were injured, five of them severely. The 38-year-old Dutchman who drove the car into the crowd died from his injuries Friday morning.
The town of Apeldoorn was this year's setting for the traditional Queen's Day festivities. An open-top bus with the royal family on board was close to the monument ‘The Needle', when a black Suzuki appeared at high speed out of nowhere.
The car hit the monument with a bang and came to a stop. The royal bus continued to drive on. Live TV pictures being broadcast to millions of homes showed a shocked Princess Máxima put her hand to her mouth. By then, 17 people who had been in the car's path lay wounded and, as it turned out, four of them were dead. One died of his injuries in the hospital later.
A planned action, said the Public Prosecutor at a press conference following several hours of chaos. In order to arrive at the monument, the car must have gone through a roadblock. Furthemore, the car was driving into the crowd at high speed.
The driver survived the impact. He was arrested, but due to the seriousness of his injuries he had to be taken straight to hospital for an operation. Nevertheless, Chief Public Prosecutor Ludo Goossens could confirm that it was indeed not an accident:
"At the moment, I can tell you that from our first contact with the accused, there are indications that this was a deliberately planned action. As a prelude to this action, there are indications that there was earlier contact with officers from the military police, after which the incident we all witnessed took place."
According to Mr Goosens, the contact with the accused took place before he was cut free from the seriously damaged vehicle. He's a 38-year-old native Dutchman who wasn't known to the police, and it also isn't known whether he has mental problems.
No terror link
The Public Prosecutor stressed that the crash is not being seen as a terrorist-related incident. Explosives officers thoroughly checked the wreck of the vehicle, and the National Anti-Terrorism Coordinator was involved in the initial investigations.
A car crashes into the crowd waiting for the visit of the royal family in Apeldoorn on 30 April 2009. Dutch Queen Beatrix and royal family members visit Apeldoorn during the celebration of the Queen's Day public holiday.
In most places in the Netherlands, Queen's Day festivities were cancelled or shortened. However, in Amsterdam there were so many people already in the city that it was not feasible to call everything off.
Prime Minister Balkenende expressed his sympathies to the bereaved as soon as he returned from a visit to Poland. Queen Beatrix, who along with her family was in danger from the incident, also made a statement of sympathy:
"The hearts of my family and I, and I think everyone in the country, are with the victims, their families and friends. We're all deeply shocked at this incident. We're speechless that something so terrible could have happened."
* RNW translation (as) / Perro de Jong