The Chaotic Aftermath of an Airplane Crash in Amsterdam

A Second Disaster
  • Joris Yzermans
  • Berthold P. R. Gersons
Part of the The Plenum Series on Stress and Coping book series (SSSO)


At the time of the 1992 Bijlmermeer plane crash, no one would have dreamt that more than 6 years after the event, the entire country would be glued to the television to witness the demise of what could only be characterized as a chaotic aftermath of the disaster. In 1998, the Dutch Parliament decided to organize a Parliamentary inquiry to determine the causes and consequences of the crash and its possible ramifications for public health. An inquiry committee was appointed, exhaustive investigations were launched, and public hearings were broadcast on primetime national television. Half a million viewers followed the 6 weeks of “the Bijlmer Inquiry”—named after the Bijlmermeer district of Amsterdam—where the crash occurred. Front pages were filled with pictures and reports of breathtaking interrogations. The climax came when an air traffic controller testified that he had been instructed shortly after the crash to keep information about lethal substances that were possibly on board the cargo airplane “under his hat.” Although this statement was later proven to be false, rescue workers had not been warned at the time to take extra precautions. Since that day, the expression “keeping something under your hat” has become part of the everyday household vernacular. It captured the widespread conviction that information was deliberately being withheld.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barsky, A. J., & Borus,J. F. (1999). Functional somatic syndromes. Annals of Internal Mediane; 130, 910–921.Google Scholar
  2. Carlier, I. V. E., & Gersons, B. P. R. (1995). Partial posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): The issue of psychological scars and the occurrence of PTSD symptoms. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 107–109.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carlier, I. V. E., & Gersons, B. P. R. (1997). Stress reactions in disaster victims following the Bijlmermeer plane crash. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 10, 329–335.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Carlier, I. V. E., Lamberts, R. D., van Uchelen, A. J., & Gersons, B. P. R. (1998). Disaster-related post-traumatic stress in police officers: A field study of the impact of debriefing. Stress Mediane, 14, 143–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carlier, I. V. E., van Uchelen, J. J., Lamberts, R. D., & Gersons, B. P. R. (1993). De Bijlmervlie-gramp. Een onderzoek naar de psychische gevolgen bij getroffenen en hun commentaar op degeboden nazorg. Internal report, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  6. Carlier, I. V. E., van Uchelen, A. J., & Gersons, B. P. R. (1995). De Bijlmermeer-vliegramp; een vervolgonderzoek naar de lange termijn psychische gevolgen en de nazorg bij getroffenen. Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Department of Psychiatry.Google Scholar
  7. Carlier, I. V. E., van Uchelen, J. J., Lamberts, R. D., & Gersons, B. P. R. (1995). Het lange-termijn effect van debriefen. Een vervolgonderzoek bij de Amsterdamse politie naar aanleiding van de Bijlmerramp. Internal report, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Psychiatry Division, Psychotrauma Group.Google Scholar
  8. Eindrapport Bijlmermeer Enquête. (1999). Een beladen vlucht. The Hague: Sdu.Google Scholar
  9. Gersons, B. P. R., & Carlier, I. V. E. (1993). Plane crash crisis intervention: A preliminary report from the Bijlmermeer, Amsterdam. Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 14, 109–116.Google Scholar
  10. Gersons, B. P. R., & Carlier, I. V. E. (1994). Treatment of work related trauma in police officers: Posttraumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic decline. In M. B. Williams & J. F. Sommer, Handbook of post-traumatic therapy (pp. 325–333). Westport, CT: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  11. Goenjian, A. K., Pynoos, R. S., Steinberg, A. M., Najarian, L. M., Asarnow, J. R., Karayan, I. et al. (1995). Psychiatric comorbidity in children after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry, 34, 1174–1183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Havenaar, J., & van den Brink, W. (1997). Psychological factors affecting health after toxico-logical disasters. Clinical Psychology Review, 17, 359–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Raphael, B.(1986). When disaster strikes: A handbook for the caring professions. Boston: Unwin Hyman.Google Scholar
  14. Unwin, C., Blatchley, N., Coker, W, Ferry, S., Hotopf, M., Hull, L. et al. (1999). Health of UK servicemen who served in Persian Gulf War. Lancet, 353, 169–178.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wessely, S., Nimnuan, C., & Sharpe, M. (1999). Functional somatic syndromes: One or many? Lancet, 354, 936–939.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Yzermans, C. J., van der Zee, J., Oosterhek, M., Spreeuwenberg, P., Kerssens, J., Donker, G. et al. (1999). Gezondheidsklachten en de vliegramp Bijlmermeer: een inventariserend onder-zoek naar aard en omvang van, volgens mensen en/of huisartsen aan de ramp gerelateerde klachten. Amsterdam: AMC/Utrecht:Nivel.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joris Yzermans
    • 1
  • Berthold P. R. Gersons
    • 2
  1. 1.Division Public Health, Department of General PracticeAcademic Medical Center/University of AmsterdamUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. Meren Department of PsychiatryAcademic Medical Center/University of Amsterdam/de MerenAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations