The very first responders to arrive on the scene of the 22 March 2016 attacks at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station returned to the Brussels Assise Court on Wednesday afternoon so that the parties could ask them any questions on their testimonies, delivered at the beginning of the presentation of the investigation, in December and early January.
Initially scheduled for the end of the day, the questioning of some of the firefighters and police officers who were first on the scene of the attacks was brought forward by the president to release them as soon as possible, given their state of stress.
Visibly badly affected, four police officers and firefighters, one of whom had asked to be accompanied by the victim assistance dog, appeared before the court. The fifth scheduled witness filed a medical certificate and was therefore absent. The president of the court, Laurence Massart, indicated that she would think of a way to possibly bring him in once he had recovered.
The public prosecutor, who was the first to be invited to question the four men, simply asked them if they agreed to be thanked.
Me Aline Fery then spoke on behalf of the civil parties to ascertain that the first responders had indeed acted in a perimeter that was not yet secure. This was answered in the affirmative by those concerned.
The responses were divided, however, on the question of their awareness of the risks at the time of their intervention. “We are all aware of what we do”, replied one policeman. “I remember having my hand on my gun all the time, because I expected to hear gunfire at any moment,” he added.
One of the firefighters, on the other hand, said he realised the danger he was in “as we went along”.
The lawyer then asked the four men if they knew how many times they had to evacuate the scene at Zaventem, but none was able to answer. After these three questions, the civil parties joined in the thanks given by the prosecution.
The defence had no questions for the witnesses.
At the end of this questioning session, which lasted just a few minutes, the president of the court closed the testimony of these first responders, thanking them deeply for their presence. “Thank you for coming and returning, I know how painful it was for you,” she concluded.