IIn a small Dutch town, a barbecue ends in a catastrophe with six dead: a truck went off a dike near Rotterdam on Saturday evening and crashed into around 60 revelers. Seven people, including children, were seriously injured, and the arrested truck driver is being investigated because of the fatal accident, the police said on Sunday.
The 46-year-old had gotten off track for reasons that are still unclear. Some of the dead, including a heavily pregnant woman, could only be recovered when the truck was taken away many hours later. The police are also examining the description that the truck driver had to avoid a van.
The accident with the Spanish truck occurred in the small town of Nieuw-Beijerland at an intersection. The unloaded truck initially stopped at the intersection and got off the narrow road when it started again, a police spokeswoman said. Why the truck was on the branch line at all, whether this was related to a blocked highway, is being investigated. The Spanish driver, who was unharmed, had not drunk any alcohol, and there was no evidence of drugs either. The man will be medically examined and it will also be clarified whether he was distracted by his mobile phone.
Ten ambulances and helicopters deployed
The truck was confiscated and is now being technically examined, said prosecutor Hugo Hillenaar. The vehicle, weighing several tons, had suddenly driven down the embankment into the middle of the barbecue below, where dozens of people were gathering. Within seconds the truck rolled everything down. Eyewitnesses spoke of chaos and a picture of devastation. “This is a pitch black day for this community,” the prosecutor said.
Around 100 people had registered for the festival organized by an association on the last weekend of the summer holidays, a local resident told broadcaster Omroep Rijnmond. A neighbor said everyone was panicking. Everyone wanted to help. “But there were an awful lot of injuries.” Camping tables and benches were thrown aside and the grill tipped over. Ten ambulances and helicopters were used. During the night, a specialist company used a crane to hoist the heavy truck back onto the road. Then experts started to salvage and identify the dead lying under the vehicle.
Messages of condolences from the Queen and King
“You can imagine what a blow that is: During a neighborhood festival, a truck drives into this group of people, the shock is enormous,” said a police spokeswoman at the scene of the accident. The community takes care of the care of the numerous witnesses. The people were cared for in a nearby farm. The drama has plunged Nieuw-Beijerland and its residents into deep sadness, said Mayor Charlie Aptroot. “Words cannot describe what they saw and participated in,” he said. “That hits a lot of people, including me, very hard.”
“Terrible news about the accident in Nieuw-Beijerland,” wrote Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Twitter, “My thoughts are with the victims of this terrible drama and their families.” King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima were also moved. “We are shocked and hit by the terrible accident in Nieuw-Beijerland last night, in which there were so many victims.” For the close-knit village community, this is unimaginably sad.
According to the Spanish newspaper La Verdad, the Spanish trucking company said the driver of the truck went off the road while trying to avoid a van. The haulage company is in contact with the Dutch authorities to help clarify the cause of the accident, the newspaper reported. The Dutch police could not say whether a van was involved in the accident. On the evening of the accident, however, a search was made for a white van that was parked at the intersection before and during the accident. The driver later reported to the authorities that his statement would be checked, a police spokeswoman said. As she emphasized, all scenarios regarding the course of the accident are still open.