By Calvin Palmer
A speeding car plowed into a crowd waiting for Queen Beatrix of Holland today, killing five people and injuring 14 others.
The black Suzuki Swift appeared to target an open bus carrying Queen Beatrix and her family in the town of Apeldoorn, as people celebrated Queen’s Day, a national holiday.
People were seen flying through the air as the car swerved across police railings before coming to a halt at the foot of a stone monument.
A policeman narrowly escaped injury when he jumped off his bicycle to avoid being caught between the car and railings in front of the monument.
The bus was not hit and no one in the queen’s entourage was injured.
Television footage showed members of the royal family clutch their hands to their mouths in shock as the car sped through a barricade right before their eyes.
Peter von de Vorst, a witness, said the incident was like watching a Hollywood film.
“It was a really nice day. Then you hear a bang. Everyone looks up and you see people indeed flying through the air,” he said. “This must be a joke or a strange prank. Then suddenly panic, and you realize that something really terrible has happened.”
Authorities believe the incident was deliberate, but not an act of terrorism. They did not indicate a motive or say why the queen might have been a target.
The driver was a 38-year-old white Dutch male with no police record or history of mental illness, police said. They would not give his name.
He had reportedly lost his job as a security officer a few months ago and was about to be evicted from his apartment in the town of Huissen, near Utrecht, because he could no longer pay the rent.
“He was a normal, polite man who lived a very quiet and secluded life,” a neighbour told De Telegraaf newspaper.
It was not clear how the car managed to enter the parade area, which police had sealed off hours before.
Apeldoorn Mayor Fred de Graaf said eight of the injured were in serious condition.
He said all festivities in the town were being cancelled.
“The scare and the images that the family has seen are reason to break off the official program,” he said.
Holiday programs also were called off in the port city of Rotterdam, and more were likely to be cancelled around the country.
In a brief statement broadcast on national television channels, Queen Beatrix said: “What began as a great day has ended in a terrible tragedy that has shocked us all deeply.
“We are speechless that something so terrible could have happened. 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.”