APELDOORN, Netherlands (Reuters) - A Dutchman deliberately drove his car towards an open bus carrying Queen Beatrix and her family on Thursday, killing five people and injuring 12 in a crowd watching the parade.
The black car driven by the 38-year-old missed the bus by four or five metres before slamming into a stone monument in central Apeldoorn, about 90 km (56 miles) east of Amsterdam.
Members of the royal family looked on in horror as the small Suzuki hurtled past and the popular Queen appeared visibly shaken when she appeared later on television on the Queen’s Day national holiday.
“What started as a beautiful day has ended in terrible drama, which has shocked us deeply,” Beatrix, 71, said in a brief address. She cancelled further official festivities.
Public prosecutor Ludo Goossens told a news conference the attacker, who was taken into custody and was in a critical condition in hospital, told police his actions were directed against the royal family.
He is being charged with an attempted assault on the royal family. Police said they believed the man, whose name was not disclosed, acted alone. No explosives were found in the vehicle.
Four of the injured spectators are in a serious condition. Three men and two women died.
Princess Maxima, wife of heir to the throne Willem-Alexander, and Beatrix’s other children were also in the specially designed blue and white, open-top bus which was heading to a palace in Apeldoorn.
The royal family usually visits a community on Queen’s Day, an annual holiday when citizens wearing the national colour of orange flood on to city streets.
Dutch flags, which were flying from the facades of city homes, were later at half-mast to commemorate the victims.
“The Netherlands is shaken by this terrible event,” Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said.
The popular monarch had met well-wishers on the streets before boarding the bus for the parade.
“All of a sudden I heard a bang,” one spectator said on television. “At first I thought it was a runaway horse... I saw shoes flying into the air and there was this black car, with a broken window.”
Live television footage showed the car with a crumpled front careering past the bus.
Queen’s Day, a celebration of the monarch’s birthday, is actually the birth date of Beatrix’s mother, Juliana. Beatrix was born in January.
Writing by Reed Stevenson, additional reporting by Harro ten Wolde and Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Robert Woodward