Middle of the night. 03:30. In the vicinity of The Hague, in a relatively rural area between Leiden and The Hague. (Thanks, Guardian, for covering this incident on your site’s front page, and posting the Reuters news article.)
People on the train help each other. Emergency services are on location within 10 minutes. (Cause: small construction crane on the track. A freight train runs into “construction materials” too, at about the same time, but that causes no injuries. A fire breaks out, which is extinguished quickly. So far, 1 dead, around 30 injured, 19 in hospital, including the train driver, with fractures.)
People asleep in their beds nearby wake up because of the noise, get up, dress, go outside and start helping crash victims, taking them into their homes, offering them food and beverages. Eleven of the 30 injured people are cared for in people’s homes.
A few days ago, a 21-year-old student pilot in the US lost her entire nose wheel assembly on take-off on her third solo flight. Her own instructor was not around, so ATC, another instructor and another pilot help her land safely. (She had to land while keeping the nose as high as possible as long as possible, which she did. Eventually, the tail touched the runway surface, which stopped the plane and only then, it tipped.)
In early 2010, I think it was, or maybe late 2009, there was a lot of snow in England, and many drivers got stuck on highways.
One guy hands out beakers of tea to drivers.
English newspapers praise him for not charging for the tea.
In other countries, people do not whine about a pilot’s cost of extra fuel he burns up to stay with a stricken student pilot’s plane or about the cost of the food that people provide to train crash victims.
Leiden train station was closed this morning, by the way, because too many people showed for their trains, unaware of what had happened, leading to an unacceptable, dangerously large number of people at the station. Leiden is a nice place. I lived there for a while, a long time ago. No buses are running to replace the trains that normally travel between Leiden and The Hague because the affected number of passengers is simply too whopping high for that.
Dutch people tend to stay COOL and CALM in this sort of circumstances. Does it make them happy? No, of course not. Do they all turn it all into a big bizarre drama instead of feeling grateful that none of their loved ones were affected or whatever? No, of course not, though a few may. There are always a few.
One Dutch passenger on the train was filming on his phone and even filmed himself putting on his boots or something, too, but at least he was also telling everyone – in Dunglish, not Dutch, showing awareness of his other passengers – to get out of the train asap (“Come! Out!”, indicating that he was near an exit) and asking people one by one if they were okay. He was likely using the light on his phone to provide light, by filming. (Do you know where your “torch” function is located? Does your phone have one?) The lights in the train had gone out, after all. He likely did the first thing that came to his mind to have some light. Maybe even using muscle memory. (17:36: yes, it was pitch black. He’s a Dutch student.)
(17:36: The first thing the train driver said, after weakly calling out “help” and being heard by that student? Asking how the passengers were faring.)
Several injured passengers have meanwhile released from hospital, btw. (17:36: three are in the ICU.)
Yesterday, someone who sounded very English (using English verbiage) tagged me on YouTube and called the pilot who had stayed with the student pilot’s plane a few days ago crazy. It made me furious. It makes me want to yell “FU!” at such a dumb ass. One of the reasons you do that is so that you can direct emergency services to the exact location if something goes wrong, dammit, besides just mere compassion and support for the student pilot, for example because you can see things on the other plane that its pilot can’t or you can tell the student pilot that she’s a little too high or whatever, if needed. You do that so that if the plane goes down, you can observe whether the pilot gets out and whether the plane catches fire or not. You do that so that maybe, you can put your plane down in a nearby field to rush over and pull the pilot out, if necessary.
It is what you do. It simply is what you do. And the airport happened to have the available air space for him to stay close and overfly next to her. What was it? 7R? While she landed on 7L? That’s not crazy. That’s what you do. That’s simply what you do, as a pilot.
That’s what was still on my mind when I woke up this morning.
13:15: Dutch king has visited crash site. (Flies as a pilot for KLM, to keep his license current; his professional specialty is water management, though, and he studied history at university.)
Also, two tracks were in use, two were closed due to work; major investigations have been launched to figure out what exactly happened. The deceased was the crane driver, a BAM employee.