It was just before Christmas, before supper, when a father and his daughter went out to pick up a Christmas tree. They got in the car and drove to the point of sale on the junction of “A” street with “B” way, where every year lots of Christmas trees are being sold. They bought a Christmas tree and drove back home.
At the junction, the father evidently did not notice the red light. He drove, as it appeared later, through the red light onto the junction, where a large truck approached from the left. The truck driver, who had green light, was suddenly confronted with a car coming from the right which did not stop and continued onto the junction.
The truck driver applied his brakes with all his power, but because he carried a full load, he could not avoid a collision. He smashed into the left side of the car and dragged it some 30 m along. The collision left the car in no more than a scrap heap. The father appeared to be trapped and the situation looked serious. The emergency services were the first to be called out and we as police were the first to arrive on the scene. I noticed the driver was trapped and seriously injured. However, what I saw afterwards was dreadful. I saw a Christmas tree had been pushed into the car, and I saw a child’s arm sticking out of it. I called my colleague Henk on observing the child’s arm. My colleague pushed his hand inside the wreckage and called out it was indeed a “real child’s arm”. At that moment you still hope it might have been a doll that was laying on the back seat, but unfortunately....
In the meantime the first fire crew had arrived on the scene, and started freeing the casualties. At such a time it is better for us to step back, even though you feel the compelling need to assist with the release of the passengers. We did indicate to the fire crew that we were sure there were two casualties involved, one of them being a child.
What was important to us at that time was to gather possible witnesses, and to cordon off the scene of the accident as masses of people had gathered who insisted on following the scene from close by. One has to remain professional at all times, but at times like this you would want to throw them a punch because of their misplaced remarks. Especially when you know a child is involved who is trapped in the car and may no longer be alive, receiving remarks like being authoritative and having nothing better to do than bully the public. On such occasions, as a police officer, you need to apply self-control, we are trained for this after all, aren’t we??
Meanwhile, we had gathered more witnesses who had seen the car drive through a red light. We had taken the lorry driver from the scene of the accident and taken him to the Police Station Zuidplein. He was totally shaken and it is much better not to leave someone at the accident scene in such circumstances. He confirmed he had passed through a green light and only noticed the car approaching from the right onto the junction at the last minute.
It was evident there was no hope for the two passengers. Because the child, who appeared to be a little girl, was so badly trapped and had died, it was decided to full-lift the car and transport it to the Boezembocht Police Station to free her from the wreckage on site there. The fire crew followed and were then able to cut the little girl from the wreckage, undisturbed and without onlookers.
We were able to identify the driver by his driver’s licence and vehicle registration, and by cross checking further records, we established a woman and a young girl were also registered at the same address. We suspected this was the little girl that was in the car but you cannot be totally certain at that time.
A visit had to be paid to the address with utmost urgency, also to avoid the mother attending the scene of the accident. My colleague Henk and I drove to the address of the casualties.
This is a difficult task and hard moments when you are going to turn someone’s life upside down. Having arrived at the address, I first glanced through the window and at that time I nearly lost all courage to ring the doorbell. What I observed was very endearing on the one hand, but because of our arrival very dramatic on the other hand. I saw the table had been laid for two, with also a child’s plate, laid out on a pretty (Christmas) tablecloth and lit candles on the table. I saw a woman in the room dancing around to the sound of music.
And then you have to ring the doorbell. A lot of questions run through your mind which will be best to ask. The woman answered the door, and we asked if we could come in. She frowned when she looked at us. We heard jolly Christmas music in the background. She asked if something had happened and I again asked if we could come inside. This is better on such occasions, so as to avoid emotional scenes to the public eye, and to avoid someone collapsing in the doorway.
The woman soon realised something serious had occurred and asked if something had happened t her husband and daughter. I asked if her husband and daughter had left in a car, and the make and colour of the vehicle, as well as the clothes her husband was wearing before he left. All details were verified. I informed the woman that they had been involved in a car crash and had sustained serious injuries, even though I knew they were most likely to be dead. She obviously did not trust my facial expression and asked outright: “Are they dead”? I then had to tell her and she burst out in tears and sat down on the couch, head held in her hands. This moment felt like an hour and you just do not know where to put yourself. Henk sat down next to the woman and put his hand on her shoulder Silence is the best way, until she started to ask questions on what she had to do next. We asked her if she had close relatives nearby that we could notify, as we did not want to leave her on her own. After the relatives had arrived, we left. It felt as if we were led to the slaughter, when we headed back to the station. We felt like shit to put it mildly. I will never forget the look on Henk’s face.
Having arrived home that evening, I just sat on the couch for hours with a beer, and was unable to go to sleep. Everything was going around in my head........what a dreadful day this had been.
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