5 killed in parade attack on Dutch queen

Man drives car through crowd; monarch unhurt

BERNHARD RUEBSAMEN/AFP/Getty Images)Police officers apprehended the driver of a car who had driven through a crowd in an apparent attempt to ram Queen Beatrix's motorcade during a parade in Appeldorn, the Netherlands. BERNHARD RUEBSAMEN/AFP/Getty Images)Police officers apprehended the driver of a car who had driven through a crowd in an apparent attempt to ram Queen Beatrix's motorcade during a parade in Appeldorn, the Netherlands. (Bernhard Ruebsamen/Afp/Getty Images))
By Cynthia Boll
Associated Press / May 1, 2009
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APELDOORN, Netherlands - A Dutch driver careened through police barriers and plowed into a crowd of merrymakers cheering their popular queen yesterday, in a premeditated assault on the royal family that killed five bystanders and injured 12, authorities said.

The speeding car, already dented, apparently from catapulting bystanders into the air, passed within a few yards of the open-topped bus carrying Queen Beatrix and her family down a parade route, then smashed into a stone monument.

"I think that it has become clear that this happened with premeditation," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.

Prosecutors said the driver, badly injured and still in his crumpled car, acknowledged targeting the queen and her family.

"The man said that his action was aimed at the royal family," prosecutor Ludo Goossens said.

The driver, whose name was not released, "is formally suspected of . . . an attack on members of the royal house and manslaughter or murder," Goossens said, adding that he could face life in prison.

The motive for the attack was unclear. Dutch media, citing neighbors, said the assailant recently was fired from his job and was to be evicted from his home. Police identified him as a 38-year-old Dutch man with no history of mental illness or police record.

Officials in Apeldoorn said the driver had a map of the queen's route.

Celebrations were canceled for Queen's Day, the national holiday that was to draw millions of people to street dances, picnics, and outdoor parties under sunny skies around the country. Flags were lowered to half staff. The Dutch Embassy in Washington canceled a scheduled reception.

A shaken Queen Beatrix extended her sympathies to the victims in a brief nationally televised address.

"What began as a great day has ended in a terrible tragedy that has shocked us all deeply," she said.

The driver apparently acted alone and was not linked to any terrorist or ideological group. No explosives were found in his car or in his home, Goossens said.

"From initial contact with police before the suspect was removed from the car . . . we have reason to believe it was a deliberate action," Goossens told reporters.

The driver apparently tried to intercept the bus as it turned onto a road leading to the gates of the Het Loo palace, a few hundred yards from the intersection in this eastern Dutch town.

Though the sequence of events was still unclear, he apparently crashed his small black car through two sets of police barriers, smashing his windshield and damaging the front of the vehicle even before slamming into the monument.

The final few seconds were captured on video and film by news teams following the royal family in a bus.

Reporters saw people thrown high in the air from the impact or tumbling down the street, their broken limbs askew. First aid crews and police officers ran to the victims and applied revival techniques.

The driver, bleeding from the head and nose, was slumped against the seat when police lifted him out and put him into an ambulance.

Earlier, Apeldoorn Mayor Fred de Graaf said eight of the 13 injured were in serious condition, with two men and two women killed. Later, a third man died of his injuries, said Apeldoorn municipality spokesman Toon Schuiling. Two teenagers and a 9-year-old girl were among the severely injured.

"We are speechless that something so terrible could have happened," the queen said in a rare televised appearance. "My family and I think everybody in the country sympathize with the victims, their families and friends, and all who have been hit so hard by this accident."

Dutch television footage showed Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and his wife, Princess Maxima, standing at their seats in the bus's high open platform and watching in astonishment. Maxima held her hand over her mouth in horror.

The bus was not hit, and no one in the queen's entourage was injured.