Vintage: Tenth anniversary of Turkish Airways crash near Schiphol, Netherlands
Ten years ago, on 25 February 2009, a Turkish Airlines plane crashed in a swampy meadow on the edge of Zwanenburg, a village between Haarlem and Amsterdam. Nine people were killed, four passengers in business class, two cabin crew members and three pilots. Miraculously, 126 passengers survived, though many of them badly injured.
The Boeing 737 was flying on autopilot to Schiphol's Polder runway but due to a faulty altimeter it was far too low. The plane broke into three pieces as it hit the ground. At the site, a memorial now stands. "Your grief is our grief", is written in golden letters on the memorial in Dutch, Turkish and English. It is surrounded by nine walnut trees, one for each person who died in the crash on 25 February 2009.
The plane was cleared for an approach on runway 18R, also known as the Polderbaan runway but came down short of the runway threshold, sliding through the wet clay of a ploughed field. The aircraft suffered significant damage. Although the fuselage broke into three pieces, it did not catch fire. Both engines separated and came to rest 100 metres from the fuselage.
While several survivors and witnesses indicated that it took rescuers 20 to 30 minutes to arrive at the site after the crash, others have stated that the rescuers arrived quickly at the scene. About 60 ambulances arrived along with at least three LifeLiner helicopters (air ambulances, Eurocopter EC135) and a fleet of fire engines. An unconfirmed report by De Telegraaf states that the fire fighters were at first given the wrong location for the crash site, delaying their arrival. Lanes of the A4 and A9 motorways were closed to all traffic to allow emergency services to quickly reach the site of the crash.
The bodies of three cockpit crew members were the last to be removed from the plane, at around 20h00 that evening, because the cockpit had to be examined before it could be cut open to get to these crew members. Also, some of the survivors say that at least one of the pilots was alive after the crash. The relatives of the passengers on the flight were sent to Amsterdam by Turkish Airlines shortly after.
All flights in and out of Schiphol Airport were suspended, according to an airport spokeswoman. Several planes were diverted to Rotterdam The Hague Airport as well as to Brussels Airport. At about 11h15 UTC, it was reported that the Kaagbaan runway (06/24) had been re-opened to air traffic, followed by the Buitenveldertbaan runway (09/27).
Turkish Airlines continues to use Flight 1951 on its Istanbul (Atatürk) to Amsterdam route, using an Airbus A330.
The village of Zwanenburg is hesitant to talk about the crash. Only one resident was willing to talk to the media. "Do not use my real name. I don't think that I will be thanked in the village", he said. "We were drinking coffee. At first we thought of a blowout of a truck. That also made such a bang. But soon we saw that a plane was lying in pieces in the meadow", the resident said. "From the meadow you could look into the cockpit and see the deceased pilots. That was very intense to see." Fifteen minutes later the meadow was a sea of flashing lights. "I've never seen so many ambulances, police cars, fire trucks and helicopters together." Residents from neighbouring farms offered help. As the clayey soil was barely accessible, contractor Maurits Rip used his tractor and flat cart to bring wounded and bodies to a nearby warehouse.
Rip was one of those who refused to talk. "Then I have to think about it myself, do you understand?" he said to the journalist. Another farmer said, "Then you'll have a full newspaper but my head will be full too. And I had to talk to Victim Support for so long."
"Zwanenburg is a small village. Everyone speaks to each other during the festival week. But it almost never happened about the air disaster", the resident who did agree to speak to media said. "Every day planes come over the village. Maybe they think: why won't it happen again?" An elderly man added: "It is not nothing to step across bodies from one moment to the next. I still prefer not to walk pass that meadow."
Source: NL Times