Man saves tourists from sinking minibus: ‘I saw them banging on the windows’

The minibus being winched out of Prinsengracht. Photo: ANP/HH/ Inter Visual Studio
The minibus being winched out of Prinsengracht. Photo: ANP/HH/ Inter Visual Studio

A 29-year-old man has described how he dived into a canal to rescue a group of tourists who were trapped in a sinking minibus in Amsterdam.

Nine Polish visitors were on board the bus when it overshot the quayside and fell into the water while parking next to Prinsengracht on Saturday.

Henk Cornelissen, 29, told local TV station AT5 he was sitting with his girlfriend outside a restaurant when he ‘heard a huge splash’.

‘I ran towards it and when I got to the quayside I didn’t think twice,’ he said. ‘I took my jacket off and leapt into the water.

‘I saw so many people in that small bus that was sinking fast. Four people were banging on the window but they couldn’t get out.

‘I saw a boy try to break the window with his elbow but he couldn’t do it. He was covered in blood.’

Cornelissen said he wrenched open the front door with both hands and helped the passengers climb out as the bus sank faster. He then pulled two people who couldn’t swim to safety.

‘It was essential for everyone to get out quickly,’ he said. ‘Luckily everybody could climb over the seats and escape.’

Cornelissen said he was used to swimming in cold water because he goes diving in his spare time, but he only realised how drastic the situation was once an ambulance crew arrived and all the passengers were safely accounted for.

‘Maybe I wouldn’t have gone in the water if I didn’t have that experience,’ he said. ‘It could have turned out very differently. What if someone had died? It would have been traumatic. But I would do it again if I had to, no doubt about it.’

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