Budget debate starts with commemoration for kids killed in rail crash

Flowers left at the scene of a fatal rail accident on Braakstraat in Oss, four children were killed, 20 Sept 2018
Flowers left at the scene of a fatal rail accident on Braakstraat in Oss, four children were killed, 20 Sept 2018Photo: @ProRail / Twitter

The second day of the General Political Considerations, the parliamentary debate on the government's plans and budget for the next year, started on Friday morning with parliamentarians briefly commemorating four children who were killed in a railway accident in Oss on Thursday morning, NOS reports.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed his sympathy, saying that the whole of the Netherlands was touched in the soul by this tragedy. "This is the nightmare of every father and mother and every grandfather and grandmother, every brother and sister", he said. Today's debate is important, he said, but there are things that are more important.

Tweede Kamer president Khadija Arib called the accident a tragedy that is felt by everyone. "As parents you bring your children to a childcare center and an hour later they are gone. The ground disappears underneath your feet. It is incomprehensible", she said. She wished the victims' family members a lot of strength.

A childminder was taking five children from the Okido childcare center to primary school De Koranaer in a Stint electric cargo bike when they were hit by a train at a guarded crossing on Braakstraat. Four children between the ages of 4 and 8 were killed. An 11-year-old girl and the 32-year-old woman were seriously injured. The injured girl and two of the deceased victims were sisters. 

The primary school that the victims attended opened as usual on Friday, but with an adapted program drawn up with the help of Victim Support. "The pupils started this morning with reflection on what happened by talking to classmates about it. Whatever they felt like at that moment", Sandra Beuving of SAAM, the partnership of schools that covers De Koranaer, said to NOS. "They had the space to ask questions, to draw, to make crafts, to write poems, because they also want to let the parents of the children know they sympathize with them."

After that, lessons started again. "Of course, at a certain point children also want everything to be normal again. So we are teaching as usual at the moment", Beuving said. 

Many children were very affected by the tragedy, she added. "Children said they slept very badly last night. There are also children who are very concerned about what is happening in the media, why the whole Netherlands is focused on this." There are helpers at the school to assist children who need it. "If children are very sad they have the opportunity to talk separately about it. And sometimes we let parents know: your child is very sad, maybe it's better if you come to school."

On Thursday evening hundreds of Oss residents left flowers and teddy bears at Oss West station, close to the scene of the accident. On Friday morning the municipality placed tents over this impromptu memorial, to protect it from the wind and rain. 

There were also other initiatives to commemorate the children. Bishop Gerard de Korte prayed for the deceased children, their next of kin and the wounded during the Eucharistic celebration in the Sint-Janskathedraal in Den Bosch on Friday morning. He asked everyone to keep the people of Oss in their prayers. "Especially during the celebrations of the coming weekend." Churches and other places of worship in Oss will open their doors to people who need it on Saturday.

The tragedy is also the center of attention at football stadium TOP Oss, not far from where the accident happened. During the match against Sparta, players will wear mourning bands. A minute of silence will be held before the start of the match. TOP Oss supporters called on everyone to wear black when they come to the game. "Everyone wants to do something. You can't simply ignore this", supporter Bram de Vet said to NOS.

Sparta supporters also want to express their support. They plan to come to the match with a big banner and light torches. "This transcends every football game, we want to express our sympathy", Peter van der Zwan of the Sparta supporters club said to the broadcaster.