Four children, ferried to school by electric wagon, die in level crossing tragedy

Four children have been killed when a train hit an electric cargo wagon at a manned level crossing in Oss. Another child and an adult were badly injured in the accident and are being treated in hospital. Three of the victims - two children who were killed and the injured child - are sisters. The children were being taken from their 'before school' daycare centre to school when, eyewitnesses say, the vehicle, known as a stint or a bolderkar in Dutch, drove through the level crossing barriers. According to some eyewitnesses, it appeared as if the brakes had failed. The accident happened shortly after 8.30am and was witnessed by several people, including children. The prime minister, queen Maxima and other politicans have expressed their horror at the accident and sent their condolences to the family and friends of those who died. A spokesman for ProRail told a news conference at Oss town hall that the company would launch a major investigation. The main question, he said, is 'what can we do to make sure nothing like this happens again.' The train, travelling from Nijmegen to Den Bosch, had a camera attached to the front and that footage will now be studied, the spokesman said. Oss mayor Wobine Buijs-Glaudemans told the press conference this is a 'black day' for the town. 'Every family will be affected by this,' she said. The stint is an electric wagon, controlled by someone standing on a plate at the back. They are popular with daycare centres for taking groups of children around. According to the company that makes them, 3,000 are currently being used by Dutch and Belgian daycare organisations. Similar systems are also used by delivery companies. The stint has been approved for use on Dutch roads by the transport ministry but road safety organisation Veilig Verkeer Nederland said as recently as April that it considered them to be dangerous. Spokeswoman José de Jong told the AD on Thursday it is crucial that drivers have proper training in using the vehicles. ‘We are aware of other accidents as well as this terrible incident,’ she said. Edwin Renzen who launched the electric vehicle in 2012 said he was horrified by the accident. ‘This is the worst nightmare of every parent,’ he said. Several daycare groups have now told parents they will now longer use the electric carts to move children around pending the outcome of the investigation, RTL Nieuws reported. Warnings The tragedy comes soon after the Dutch safety board slammed the ‘unacceptable’ way an average of 11 people are killed in accidents on railway level crossings every year. It said the fragmented approach and lack of focus at the infrastructure ministry are stalling efforts to improve safety at crossings. The Netherlands is the only country within the EU where so many roads cross so many railways, the OVV said. ‘This is not a good combination.’ The safety board has also launched an investigation into the Oss accident.  More >

No confession in Nicky Verstappen case

The man suspected of killing 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen 20 years ago and arrested after new techniques gave a dna match, has not confessed to the crime, his lawyer told judges in Maastricht on Monday. ‘If he had made a confession, we would be having a completely different conversation,’ lawyer Gerald Roethof told a remand hearing on Thursday. Roethof told the court that the public prosecution department does not have sufficient evidence to convict his client. Roethof told RTL Nieuws earlier this week that the dna evidence against Brech is weak. ‘We have to be very careful about the dna and drawing conclusions based on it,’ he said. As well as Brech’s dna, traces from five other people were also found on the boy and there is no blood or sperm link, Roethof said. Brech was arrested in Spain at the end of last month. He was identified via a mass dna testing, launching a Europe-wide hunt. Nicky Verstappen was murdered on a campsite in Limburg in July 1998.  More >

Gov't sets aside €5m for vaccine victims

The government has set aside €5m to compensate a group of seven to 11 people who were given the Pandemrix vaccine against Mexican flu and who may have developed narcolepsy as a result, the Volkskrant reported on Friday. The vaccine, which is not the same as the annual flu jab, was given to around half a million children at the time of the flu outbreak in 2009. It is rare for the state to come to a financial settlement with individuals about side effects because the vaccines are extensively tested, the paper said, adding that the fact that an amount has been set aside does not mean the state admits liability. Studies into the occurrence of narcolepsy as a side-effect of the vaccine have proved contradictory. Narcolepsy is a debilitating disease that makes people fall asleep at odd moments and can weakens the muscles in moments of stress. ‘It is very difficult to prove if individual cases are the result of the vaccine,’ Agnes Kant, director of drug safety centre Lareb, told the paper. ‘But if you look at all the studies, there is a strong indication that in rare cases Pandemrix can play a role in the development of narcolepsy.’ In 2016 a 15 year-old boy in Britain who also had the vaccine and subsequently developed narcolepsy was awarded the equivalent of €163,000 in damages. Individual payouts A health ministry spokesperson told the paper that nothing can be inferred about the amount given in individual compensation from the €5m stated in the health ministry budget. But personal injury lawyers John Beer and Lucas Hogeling, who represent the families of the children who may have been affected, say it’s ‘remarkable’ the government mentioned an amount at all. ‘We are still talking to the state advocate and experts about how extensive the damage is. These are young people now, between 10 and 15 years old, some of whom are unable to work or study full-time. So that €5m could easily become €10m,’ they told the Volkskrant.  More >

Stomach bug hits cruise ship in Rotterdam

At least 30 passengers on an Italian cruise ship moored in Rotterdam have stomach complaints similar to the Norovirus, Dutch media said on Thursday. Health service officials were called to the Aidaprima on Thursday morning after patients reported problems and no-one was allowed to come on board. The ship was later given the all clear, local broadcaster RTV Rijnmond said. Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis and is highly infectious. There is no treatment for the disease, which is often spread through unhygienic food preparation. The ship, which visits Rotterdam on a weekly basis during the summer, is currently moored close to the Erasmus bridge but will leave on Friday morning. It is carrying 3,500, mainly German passengers.   More >

Inspectors pay damages to doctor's widow

The health inspectorate has paid €154,000 in damages to the widow of a doctor who committed suicide after being accused of wrongly administering euthanasia to a dying cancer patient. Nico Tromp, a family doctor from the Noord Holland village of Tuitjenhorn, killed himself six days after his home was raided late at night by police and he was suspended, following a complaint from a trainee doctor. His suspension was later proven to be wrongful and the hospital where the trainee doctor was based also apologised for bringing in the health inspectorate without discussing the allegations with him. The Volkskrant says it has a copy of the agreement reached between the widow and inspectors. Her lawyer Cor Hellingman has refused to comment on the size of the award but did say it was 'very substantial for reputational damage'. The case was reported to the hospital by a trainee doctor who was with Tromp when he gave the terminally-ill cancer patient morphine. She said the doctor had given the patient too much of the drug. The widow of Theo Spaansen, the man helped to die by the doctor, said at the time she was furious with the health ministry and that the doctor did his best with her husband. Spaansen was sent home from hospital because he wanted to die in familiar surroundings.  More >

Good start for Ajax in Champions League

Amsterdam football club Ajax got off to a good start in this year's Champions League competition with a 3-0 home win against AEK Athene. Nicolas Tagliafico was man of the match, scoring the first and third goals, with substitute Donny van de Beek putting away number two. Ajax has drawn Bayern Munich, Benfica and AEK Athene in group E. The club's next meeting is on October 2 when the Amsterdammers meet Bayern Munich away. On Tuesday, PSV Eindhoven had a difficult start to their Champions League campaign, losing 4-0 to FC Barcelona.   More >

Record number of cranes spotted in NL

Cranes are doing well in the Netherlands, with pairs nesting in the provinces of Brabant and Limburg for the first time, bird protection organisation Vogelbescherming Nederland said this week. The organisation counted 32 crane pairs in total this year, which, it says, is ‘an absolute record’ and 45% up on 2017. Three thirds of the crane pairs were spotted in the provinces of Drenthe and Friesland and brooding cranes have been seen in Brabant and Limburg for the first time. Cranes, easily recognised by their size and trumpet call, were absent from the Netherlands for hundreds of years and only made a come-back in 2001 when the first chick was born in the Fochterloërveen wetlands on the border of Friesland and Drenthe. Of this years’ 32 pairs only 12 pairs had chicks and of these just seven made it out of the nest. That is in itself a disappointing result, Vogelbescherming Nederland said, but drought limited the amount of food available and made the nests more easily accessible to predators. Despite of a relatively meagre number of new chicks, the crane is here to stay and with wetter weather next year and better protection of nesting sites, 2019 could become a top year for cranes, the organisation said.  More >