Car crashes into Carnival party in Belgium, 6 killed, 10 critically injured

A car at high speed plowed into a crowd of carnival party attendees in a small town in southern Belgium early Sunday, March 20, killing six people. Ten other people were critically injured and dozens of minor injuries.

Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said “what was supposed to be a big party turned into a tragedy.”

The Belgian Prosecutor’s Office said preliminary investigations found no elements to suspect the incident was terror-motivated, and two local residents in their 30s were arrested at the scene in Strépy-Bracquegnies, about 50 kilometers south of Brussels.

Ostrich feather hat 'Gilles of Binche' during the carnival parade in Binche, Belgium, Tuesday, February 21, 2012. (Photo: AP/Yves Logghe)

Ostrich feather hat ‘Gilles of Binche’ during the carnival parade in Binche, Belgium, Tuesday, February 21, 2012. (Photo: AP/Yves Logghe)

In ancient tradition, carnival revelers gather at dawn and pick up other people at their homes which are located along the road leading to the carnival venue, to then hold a party that has been banned for the past two years to fight widespread spread. COVID-19. Some people, dressed in colorful clothes with bells, walk behind the beats. Today was supposed to be the day of liberation.

Instead, said Mayor Jacques Gobert, “what happened turned the celebration into a national disaster.”

More than 150 people of all ages had gathered since 05.00 and were standing in the dense crowd along the long and straight road. Suddenly “a car at high speed drove up. There were a number of people injured, and unfortunately several people died,” Gobert said.

The driver and a second person were arrested when their car came to a stop a few hundred meters after crashing into the crowd.

Since Belgium was hit by twin terror attacks in Brussels and Zaventer that killed 32 civilians six years ago, citizens have always been haunted by terror motives. But Prosecutor Damien Verheyen said “there is nothing in the current investigation that would allow me to consider that the motive for the two alleged perpetrators was terror.”

The Prosecutor’s Office also denied media reports that the accident may have been caused by the car being chased by the police.

King Philippe and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo are expected to arrive in Strépy-Bracquegnies on Sunday (20/3) evening to offer support for the families and victims.

Carnival in this area is very popular and another version in Binche has even been declared a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. [em/ah]