Queen Mathilde & king Philippe were present at a meeting of the association "Ouders van Verongelukte Kinderen - Parents d'Enfants Victimes de la Route" in Dilbeek. The association was founded 20 years ago. Mathilde & Philippe have also been present at gatherings for its 15 years and 10 years of existence.
Mathilde lost her own grandmother and younger sister in a road accident in 1997.
Mathilde's mother talked about this tragedy in an interview in 2007:
The tragedy took place on the 14th of August 1997. We had a family meeting that day to remember my father’s birthday, he died a few years before. My daughter Marie-Alix wanted to be with my mother to support her. They drove together in my mother’s small car. Another car, with my sister-in-law and my son in it, was driving in front of them. At the moment the accident happened, my son looked at the road behind him, he saw everything. Just before the bridge of Herstal it went wrong. My mother’s car was hit by a truck when overtaking. The car turned around a few times and came to a stop, diagonally on the road. Another truck coudn’t avoid the car and crashed into it at full speed. The blow must have been terrible.
Your mother died immediately, but your daughter died later, according to the police rapports.
Yes. Marie-Alix still lived for a short moment. The ambulance, that was there very quickly, did everything they could to save her. Her wounds were too severe.
How did you hear about the terrible accident?
My sister-in-law told me. That afternoon we were only a kilometer away, at the reception of my brother’s new company. My sister-in-law burst into the reception, completely upset and told us that an accident had happened to mama and Marie-Alix.
Did you already know then that your mother had died?
No, but I knew it was serious. My husband and I ran to our car immediately and drove to the spot of the accident. I saw how the doctors were reanimating my daughter in the ambulance. It was heartwrecking. I often think about how they left the ambulmance. I could see in their eyes my daughter hadn’t made it. I can not explain what I felt then.
By then you knew your mother had passed away too?
Yes, all the while she had been lying there on the ground under a white sheet. It was gruesome to look at. I completely lost it. Two people whom I loved so much were lying there and I could do nothing to help. Do you know what’s worst?
That at the time I didn’t have the presence of mind to donate their organs to people who needed them. They could have saved someone else’s life and their death woudn’t have been completely useless.
My daughter had just started a relationship with prince Philippe. Nobody outside the family knew about it. That was a good thing, for them to discover each other peacefully. Of course the prince was present at both funerals to support Mathilde and our family. Nobody asked any questions, because his presence was explained by the fact that he knew our family.
Did prince Philippe’s support mean a lot to you?
He was fantastic. On the day they died he personnally arranged for my two daughters who were in Germany to get home safely. Not by buying airline tickets, he went to fetch them himself. Those days he was there for us day and night. All his duties were cancelled. Nothing was too much for him. And you should know that at the time nobody knew about his relationshhip with Mathilde. There was no talk of mariage yet. And still that man did so much for us. He’s a person with a big heart. More people should realize this.
How have you learned to live with this great loss?
I can’t live with it, but I have no choice. My husband, my children, my sons-in-law, my grandchildren are the reason that every now and then I can put it aside. You never get used to loosing a child. I don’t believe the stories that time makes it easier. It’s just not right to survive your own child.