Tenth anniversary of Turkish Airways crash near Schiphol

Emergency services at the site of Turkish Airlines flight TK 1951 crash in Zwanenburg, near Schiphol, 25 Feb 2009
Emergency services at the site of Turkish Airlines flight TK 1951 crash in Zwanenburg, near Schiphol, 25 Feb 2009Photo: Radio Nederland Wereldomroep / Fred VlooWikimedia CommonsCC-BY

Ten years ago today 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, AD reports.

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 February 25th, 2009. 

The village of Zwanenburg is hesitant to talk about the crash, AD found out when it approached surrounding farms. Only one resident was willing to talk to the newspaper. "Do not use my real name. I don't think that I will be thanked in the village", he said to the newspaper.

"We were drinking coffee. At first we thought of a blowout of a truck. That also make 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 neighboring 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 to AD. "Then I have to think about it myself, do you understand?" he said to the newspaper. 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 AD 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."