Child survivor of Libyan crash prepares to go home

Afp May 15, 2010

TRIPOLI: The Dutch boy who was the sole survivor of a Libyan plane crash has been told his parents were killed and will return home Saturday, as investigators said the pilot reported no faults before the jet went down.

Dutch foreign ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger told AFP on Friday that nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw would be accompanied home "by his uncle and aunt and the doctor treating him." They are set to leave Tripoli at 10 am (0800 GMT) for a destination in the Netherlands the ministry refused to disclose.

The Dutch federation of tour operators said the plane would land at the Eindhoven military airport. The boy's aunt and uncle said that Ruben has been told his parents and 11-year-old brother died in Wednesday's crash that killed a total of 103 people. "We have explained to Ruben exactly what happened. He knows that his parents and his brother are dead," they said in a statement read to media in Tripoli.

The statement said the boy was doing well under the circumstances and had seen the flowers and messages of support sent to him. "The time ahead will be a difficult period for us," the statement said. "We hope that the media will respect our privacy."

Earlier Ruben told a Dutch newspaper he was "fine" but could remember nothing of the crash. "My name is Ruben and I am from Holland," Telegraaf newspaper reported on a telephone conversation with the only survivor of the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 that disintegrated on landing at Tripoli airport.

"I am fine, but my legs hurt a lot," the boy told a reporter from the newspaper on the mobile phone of one of his doctors. "I am in a hospital," Ruben said. "I don't know how I got here, I don't know anything more. I really want to go home." Siddiq ben Dilla, a doctor who operated on the boy's smashed legs, said his condition was improving.

Officials said 70 Dutch citizens were among the 103 people killed in the crash, although Afriqiyah Airways said there were 67 Dutch on board, including the boy. The airline said Flight 771 was also carrying 13 South Africans, 13 Libyans including the 11 crew, as well as four Belgians, two Austrians, one Briton, a French citizen, a German and a Zimbabwean.

The German foreign ministry has said that one of the South Africans also held German citizenship, while the nationality of one victim has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, crash investigators said no technical problems were reported by the pilot before the jet went down. "The pilot did not report any problems. Until the very last moment things were normal between the pilot and the control tower," Neji Dhaou, the head of the commission of inquiry, told AFP.

"What I can confirm for now is that the aircraft struck the ground before reaching the runway," he said, adding the investigators "have ruled out nothing for the moment." On the day of the disaster, Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan had said "we have definitely ruled out the theory that the crash was the result of an act of terrorism."

Experts from the US National Transportation Safety Board are due to join the inquiry "because the engines and navigation system are American-made," Dhaou said.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's eldest son, Seif al-Islam, visited the boy on Thursday at the hospital in Tripoli, the official Jana news agency reported. Islam "asked about the health of the Dutch boy and about the treatment he is receiving from doctors at Al-Khadra hospital," JANA said.

The Dutch newspaper Brabants Dagblad said Ruben was probably from Tilburg in the southern Netherlands and that he had been on safari in South Africa with his mother Trudy, 41, father Patrick, 40, and brother Enzo.

The boy's grandmother, An van de Sande, said in a report on Thursday that the holiday had been to celebrate the couple's copper wedding anniversary -- marked in the Netherlands after 12.5 years. "We don't understand. It's like we're in a film," she told Brabants Dagblad.

In a 14-day blog account of a fun-filled African safari holiday, Patrick van Assouw wrote of long car trips through beautiful scenery, swimming in natural pools, eating junk food and spotting monkeys, giraffes and elephants.


rehan | 13 years ago | Reply I feel very sorry for you Ruben.May God protect you and give you strength.My sincere prayers will always be with you, son.
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