Hero who died saving 5 during Utrecht tram mass shooting will receive top honor
A man who died saving passengers during a mass shooting on and around a tram in Utrecht four years ago will be posthumously awarded a high civilian honor on Friday. Rinke Terpstra kicked out a window on the tram and helped at least five people to safety before he was shot dead during the attack on March 18, 2019.
Gökmen T. fired gunshots inside the tram and in the area of 24 Oktoberplein, killing four people and injuring many others. The four people who died were all inside the tram at the time. Those who were hurt were largely fleeing the scene of the shooting. T. was sentenced to life in prison for the incident, which was considered to be a terrorist act.
During the shooting, Terpstra pulled the emergency brake, and helped five passengers jump though the window he smashed open, security camera footage showed. He was the last to try to climb out, but was shot in the back while trying to escape, the Volkskrant detailed on Friday.
For his bravery, Mayor Sharon Dijkstra will present Terpstra's medal to his surviving children in a ceremony on Friday. Known in Dutch as the Erepenning voor Menslievend Hulpbetoon, it is the oldest civilian medal of honor given for heroism in the Netherlands, the newspaper reported. It was established in 1822 by King Willem I for the performance of "a charitable act that bears the marks of courage and self-sacrifice."
"We think it's a very nice gesture, and very rightly so," said Bauke Terpstra about his brother, Rinke. “My brother always thought of other people before himself,” he told the Volkskrant.
Earlier this year, Terpstra's family spoke critically of the public transport company and the driver of the vehicle during the incident four years ago. The driver decided to keep the doors of the vehicle closed, cutting off an escape route.
An attorney representing Terpstra's surviving family said his death was “the result of a circumstance that the carrier could have avoided, or the consequences of which the company could have prevented.”
At a memorial for the shooting held this year on 24 Oktoberplein, Dijksma revealed a new plaque at the site of the shooting. The plaque features a poem by Ruven van Gogh titled, “Niemand Vergeet,” which translates to “Nobody Forgets” in English.