Car in Amsterdam canal drama

So I’m taking a ten-minute break this lunchtime, catching up with the newspapers (some dead-trees reading for a change) when I hear this loud ‘bang’ from outside along with people yelling.

"What on earth was that?" I said to my wife. I jump to the window – and there’s a car in the canal. And the driver’s still inside.

People running up and down the street, someone jumps into the canal and swims over to the rapidly-sinking car. I call 112, the emergency service, who say they’ve already had a dozen calls and help is on the way.

By the time I get my camera, the car’s almost disappeared under the water. The picture you see here is the end result – the police hoisting the car out of the canal, after the ambulance has taken the driver away (he lived, thank goodness), the divers have departed, the ambulance helicopter which landed in the main road across the way (and wasn’t needed in the end) has flown off, the TV crews have gone and most of the spectators lining both sides of the canal have melted away.

But what an hour-long drama – and how impressively speedily the Amsterdam police, ambulance and fire services arrived on the scene – within ten minutes of my hearing the bang and seeing the car in the canal – and sorting it all out.

I took quite a few photos with an Olympus 3030-Zoom 3.3 megapixel digital camera (yeah, I know, old hat resolution these days) using optical and digital zoom from my vantage point in my top-floor apartment, with the events happening in and across the canal some 150 meters away, and shooting into the sun.

Here’s the story (and see what you think of the photos):

Here’s how it all started – the car’s almost disappeared from view:

Ambulances have arrived, the police divers have got the driver out of the car and the firemen coming running to help get the driver onto dry land:

The medics carry out resuscitation (yes, they did do all the life-saving things needed: clearly the car’s driver nearly didn’t make it):

Thankfully, he appeared to be (relatively) ok as he was loaded into an ambulance which sped off to the major emergency hospital some 3 miles away towards Amstelveen in the suburbs south of here.

After that, there was a lot of waiting about as the emergency team figured out the best way to get the car out of the canal:

The police tow truck was the answer, as the first picture shows. And here’s the successful end result:

So, quite some excitement today! I took lots of photos of the police raising the car from the canal. Hmm, that might make an interesting Photo Story 3 compilation (if I do one, I’ll post it here).

All the pics you see here are quick improvements (a bit of sharpening here and there) to the ones I took, using Paint Shop Pro 8. If I’d just uploaded all the pics, this report would have been blogged at least 45 minutes earlier.

I’ve heard radio news already about this drama. Not seen it on local TV yet. So this blog report might be one of the first reports, especially in the English language.

This is your citizen reporter in Amsterdam, signing off for now.

Update 10-Jan: It’s just gone 4.30pm and the ambient light outside is now such that, from my high-up vantage point looking down, I think I can see how the car got into the canal.

Take a look at this photo I just took (click on it to see an enlarged image). You can just see, faintly, two tyre tracks across the grass leading away from you into the canal:


So I think the driver was either trying to park or he somehow lost control of his car and ran into the canal. Maybe the lost control idea is more likely as it looks like the car passed over the two boats you see, which are undamaged, so the car must have been travelling at some speed.

As you can see from the photo, this canal doesn’t have any kind of barrier. But, in this part of the city, that’s usually not necessary as the distance from road to canal edge is pretty long – unlike in the city center, in the old canal ring streets, where car to water’s edge is a couple of feet at most.

14 thoughts on “Car in Amsterdam canal drama

  1. Good piece of blog-citizen journalism 🙂 Glad the driver made it.
    Interesting piece of information, should it ever happen to you (I am a volunteer fireman btw): don’t try to open the car door! Even partially submerged, the force needed for this is much more than any normal person can handle.
    If you are lucky and your car is old enough to have manual window openers, simply roll down the window. If you have electric window openers, keep a window smashing tool (usually combined with a belt cutter) handy. You ought to have one of these in your car anyway.
    my 0.02c 🙂 Have a nice day!

  2. I probably would’ve forgotten my lunch! Haven’t you, Neville?
    It’s good to know that our police is so fast (when it’s needed). What strikes me though: why didn’t the driver just get out of the car? That’s what I’ve learned:
    1. get out the doorwindow if you’re not too deep in the water yet, or
    2a. wait until the cabine is almost filled, take a deep breath, open the window
    2b. (or, if the electricity is out, break the doorwindow with your lifehammer or open up the door anyway) and
    3. get out.
    The car seems undamaged, so that “bang” was no accident against a truck or something – probably just the car hitting the water. Could the driver have been so severely hurt that it wasn’t possible to leave the car anymore?
    If he/she wore a lifebelt, that shouldn’t be possible… (couldn’t see a safety bag either, btw)
    Hmmm… puzzling.
    But fortunate, this time!

  3. Thanks MarieA! Amazing what you can very quickly do with a digital camera on hand (and imagine how even quicker if I’d had a camera phone and moblogged the report).
    Irakli, that’s excellent advice. In watching the rescue from my balcony, I couldn’t see how the diver got the driver out. When the car was hoisted out of the canal, you could see that all the windows were intact and none of them was open.
    So maybe the car had already quickly filled up with water and the either the driver opened it underwater or the diver did.
    No doubt the details will emerge on local TV news later today.

  4. Rob, good questions. As I mentioned in my previous comment (which I was typing as you were leaving your comment), I guess someone opened the door underwater.
    As for how it happened, that’s another good question. No skid marks in the road, no collision with anything, no indicator anywhere to see how the car managed to get into the canal.
    What I think is likely is that the driver was parking, which is facing the canal, and maybe his foot slipped on the accelerator – and off the car went.

  5. Frightening for the driver. Wise advice, Rob, about rolling down the window. We’ll all remember that for next time.
    Funny thing is that the canals here are not all that deep. Big question is HOW did the driver get the car into the canal? Without any visible markings or tracks, is it possible that there is no parking barrier on the edge there? Did you find out yet what really happened, Nev?

  6. Colby, I just added some comment to the post with another photo I just took – this shows some tyre tracks.
    From this pic, it could be that the driver somehow lost control and went into the canal as the photo suggests.
    You’re right, the canals generally aren’t that deep. But, the municipality dredged this part of the Zuider Amstel canal a few months ago, so I think it’s much deeper than you might expect.

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