Docu-drama ‘The Crash’ puts a human face on a Dutch air disaster (2024)

Dutch docu-drama series The Crash may centre around a notorious plane crash, but it’s far from a dry and technical Air Crash Investigation-style recounting of this tragic incident. Instead, it’s a masterful dramatisation of the disaster’s political and social aftermath: something that’s clear in the opening scene, where lead character Asha Willems (Joy Delima) tells an inquiry that “this isn’t about paperwork, this is about people”.

Docu-drama ‘The Crash’ puts a human face on a Dutch air disaster (1)

Asha Willems (Joy Delima). Credit: KRO-NCRV / Big Blue

Over its five episodes, The Crash (originally titled Rampvlucht) turns an eye to the crash’s many marginalised victims: residents of an Amsterdam suburb where apparently unscathed survivors began suffering mysterious health problems after a cargo jet ploughed into their neighbourhood.

That accident is El Al flight 1862, which took off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on 4 October 1992, losing two engines and crashing into the Bijlmermeer housing project. At least 43 people were killed, but the exact death toll is disputed, as Bijlmermeer was known for housing many undocumented migrants living there unofficially. The attitude at the time of some in the Netherlands to the large migrant population in the Bijlmermeer complex (many of whom hailed from Ghana and former Dutch colonies like Suriname) is made all too clear by one official on the show, who dismissively says that it was lucky that flight 1862 didn’t careen into Amsterdam’s city centre.

Originally released for the 30-year anniversary of the crash in 2022, The Crash succeeds in correcting that attitude, capturing this oft-demonised slice of Amsterdam with pathos and humanity. After surviving the crash by sheer luck, veterinarian Asha Willems uses her connections in Amsterdam’s Zuidoost district (home to Bijlmermeer) to start documenting unusual medical conditions – skin problems, difficulty breathing – among people who had been close to the fiery crash but not injured, even as officials insist that the plane was carrying flowers and perfume.

Docu-drama ‘The Crash’ puts a human face on a Dutch air disaster (2)

Vincent Dekker (Thomas Höppener) and Pierre Heijboer (Yorick van Wageningen) fight to find out more. Credit: KRO -NCRV / Big Blue

Meanwhile, journalists Vincent Dekker (Thomas Höppener) and Pierre Heijboer (Yorick van Wageningen) are also investigating other oddities stemming from the crash – such as the strange inability of investigators to find the plane’s co*ckpit recorder. Having difficulty making inroads with the (rightfully suspicious) residents around Bijlmermeer, the journalists team up with Asha to get to the bottom of what happened and what the plane was carrying.

It’s this intriguing political investigation that carries The Crash: with the El Al explosion relegated to the first half-hour of the show and much of the drama occurring months afterwards, it’s less about the fear and panic of the moment, and more about long-term trauma mixed with political intrigue. It’s not really about what went wrong on flight 1862, but about the actions of powerful bureaucracies – the Dutch government, El Al, Boeing. In this sense, there’s more than an echo of 2019 miniseries Chernobyl here, but also stories that focus on speaking truth to power, like Irish film In The Name Of The Father, with its investigation of false accusations of guilt that followed an IRA bombing in the 1970s.

The combination of Asha, Vincent and Pierre is a terrific vehicle for driving the plot down this path. They each bring their own motivations to the case: Asha, to help her community; Vincent, to prove himself as a young journalist, and Pierre, to stave off forced retirement after behaving erratically at work. This odd-trio set up also allows each actor to truly shine: with a torrent of turbulent emotions wrapped up in an ultra-poised delivery, Delima is the star here. Yet she’s supported with flair by Höppener as the quiet yet hyper-diligent Vincent, and van Wageningen as his older, loose-cannon counterpart.

Docu-drama ‘The Crash’ puts a human face on a Dutch air disaster (3)

Vincent Dekker (Thomas Höppener). Credit: KRO-NCRV / Big Blue

These performances lean subtle, and this quieter approach heightens the social tension underpinning this show. It’s a stylistic choice that permeates The Crash, even among its bit players. For example, when Asha is pushing Ghanaian immigrant Kofi to speak about his health problems after the crash, his refusal (for fear of jeopardising his pending residency permit) is understated and feels ever more real; a blunt, traumatised refusal to address something that has already caused so much pain.

Docu-drama ‘The Crash’ puts a human face on a Dutch air disaster (4)

'The Crash' delves into the aftermath of the crash. Credit: KRO-NCRV / Big Blue

Even the crash sequence itself takes this path: flashy special effects are mostly eschewed in favour of a series of vignettes that highlight the human emotion of Bijlmermeer’s residents in that terrible moment. Fittingly, the show doesn’t even begin with the crash, but rather, with the average, everyday lives of the project’s residents, reminding us that their identities predate their status as crash victims.

This restrained approach is what allows the political and social machinations of The Crash to shine through. It’s not about the unthinkable loudness at the moment of the disaster, but the subtler yet equally impactful actions that happen after – be it Asha and company investigating, or powerful people refusing to admit error or truth. It may not have the explosions and emergency sirens, but it’s where the real impact of this show lies.

Five-part series 'The Crash' is streaming now

at SBS On Demand


The Crash - episode 1
Marc Fennell explores succession within the world of Pentecostal churches in 'The Kingdom'
'Clean Sweep': It's hard to hide the past from your detective husband
Survival is the name of the game in Belfast cop drama ‘Blue Lights’
Delve into the dark side of the Emerald Isle with some of the best in Celtic Noir
Guest Curator Aisha Dee selects her SBS On Demand favourites
What to watch after 'Alone Australia'
Docu-drama ‘The Crash’ puts a human face on a Dutch air disaster (2024)


Did anyone survive KLM 4805? ›

Because nobody on the KLM flight survived, the answer is obviously about the Pan Am Flight 1736 survivors. Of the 16 survivors of Pan Am 1736 who were documented as passengers without injury: 4 of the passengers had minor injuries and were in fact released from the hospital for their injuries not being serious.

Where are the Andes plane crash survivors now? ›

Where are the 1972 Andes plane crash survivors now? Of the 16 survivors, 14 are still alive. José Luis “Coche” Inciarte died in 2023 of cancer, per the AFP, as did Javier Methol in 2015.

What were the last words of the Tenerife crash? ›

Ten seconds later there is one final exchange, clearly and maddeningly audible on the post-crash tapes. “Report when runway clear,” the tower says to Pan Am. “We'll report when we're clear,” acknowledges Bob Bragg. Focused on the takeoff, Van Zanten and his first officer apparently miss this.

How many people survived the 1977 plane crash? ›

The impact and resulting fire killed all on board KLM Flight 4805 and most of the occupants of Pan Am Flight 1736, with only 61 survivors in the front section of the aircraft. With a total of 583 fatalities, the disaster is the deadliest accident in aviation history. IATA flight No. ICAO flight No.

Who was at fault in the KLM Pan Am crash? ›

The KLM captain, Jacob Van Zanten, misinterpreted a message from the air traffic controller, believing he had clearance for takeoff, when he did not. Despite the first officer's objections, Van Zanten continued with the takeoff, which ultimately led to the collision with the Pan Am aircraft.

Were any bodies recovered from Flight 93? ›

He said his teams managed to recover only 8 percent of the bodies, none intact. Miller sent one casket home to a victim's family holding only a quarter-sized piece of skull. Because the remains were too minute to identify, they were buried at the site, now a national memorial. Miller considers the site a cemetery.

What did they eat in the Andes plane crash? ›

A group of survivors lived through the plane crash, only to face the frigid cold and snow of the mountains, avalanches and, most famously, a lack of food. As they fought for their lives for more than two months, they fed themselves by cannibalizing the bodies of those who had already died.

How many miles did the Andes survivors walk? ›

Using only materials found in the aircraft wreck, they climbed 839 metres (2,753 ft) from the crash site up 30-to-60 degree slopes to a 4,503-metre (14,774 ft) ridge to the west of the summit of Mount Seler. From there they trekked 53.9 kilometres (33.5 mi) for 10 days into Chile before finding help.

Were the survivors of alive the story of the Andes cannibalism? ›

The search went on for eight days, although bad weather prevented searching for two days. The survivors found little food in the crashed fuselage, and it became necessary for the survivors to eat the frozen bodies of their dead friends. The book was published two years after the survivors were rescued.

What do pilots say before a crash? ›

Transmit a distress or urgency message consisting of as many as necessary of the following elements, preferably in the order listed: If distress, MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAY-DAY; if urgency, PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN, PAN-PAN.

What is the saying when a pilot dies? ›

When a pilot dies, we say they "Flew West". Sobering fact: If you are a pilot long enough, eventually you will know a pilot who flies West in an aircraft accident.

What were the pilot's last words on Alaska Airlines flight 261? ›

They had run out of altitude. “Ah, here we go,” said Captain Thompson, uttering the last words captured on the co*ckpit voice recorder. Less than one second later, Alaska Airlines flight 261 slammed into the Pacific Ocean, obliterating the aircraft and instantly killing all 88 people on board.

What rock band died in a plane crash? ›

On Oct. 20, 1977, three members of the rock group Lynyrd Skynyrd, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, were killed along with three others in the crash of a chartered plane near McComb, Mississippi. On this date: In 1803, the U.S. Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase.

Has anyone fallen out of an airplane and survived? ›

Vesna Vulović (Serbian Cyrillic: Весна Вуловић, pronounced [ʋêsna ʋûːloʋitɕ]; 3 January 1950 – 23 December 2016) was a Serbian flight attendant who survived the highest fall without a parachute: 10.16 kilometres (6.31 miles) or 33,330 feet.

Who was the 4 year old only survivor of the plane crash? ›

The sole survivor of the crash was Cecelia Cichan, a four-year-old girl from Tempe, Arizona, who was returning home alongside her mother, Paula, father, Michael, and a six-year-old brother, David, after visiting relatives in Pennsylvania. Romulus firemen found Cichan still belted in her seat, which was faced down.

How many people survived the Pan Am KLM crash? ›

Its main landing gear was ripped away as it sheared off the top of Pan Am 1736's fuselage. Remains of the burnt out KLM 747 Rhine. Of the 644 people aboard the two 747s, 583 were killed and only 61 survived. [60] This was the worst accident in aviation history.

What is the highest plane crash survived? ›

Vesna Vulović (Serbian Cyrillic: Весна Вуловић, pronounced [ʋêsna ʋûːloʋitɕ]; 3 January 1950 – 23 December 2016) was a Serbian flight attendant who survived the highest fall without a parachute: 10.16 kilometres (6.31 miles) or 33,330 feet.

Who survived the flight 367 accident? ›

Flight 367 departed from Copenhagen Airport at 3:15 p.m. At 4:01 p.m, an explosion tore through the DC-9's baggage compartment. The explosion caused the aircraft to break apart over the Czechoslovak village of Srbská Kamenice. Vulović was the only survivor of the 28 passengers and crew.

Were any bodies recovered from flight 261? ›

Due to the extreme impact forces, only a few bodies were found intact, and none was visually identifiable. All passengers were identified using fingerprints, dental records, tattoos, personal items, and anthropological examination.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Annamae Dooley

Last Updated:

Views: 5525

Rating: 4.4 / 5 (45 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Annamae Dooley

Birthday: 2001-07-26

Address: 9687 Tambra Meadow, Bradleyhaven, TN 53219

Phone: +9316045904039

Job: Future Coordinator

Hobby: Archery, Couponing, Poi, Kite flying, Knitting, Rappelling, Baseball

Introduction: My name is Annamae Dooley, I am a witty, quaint, lovely, clever, rich, sparkling, powerful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.