Sunday, May 16, 2010

Boy survivor of Libya air crash 'stable but confused'

AFP - Friday, May 14

TRIPOLI (AFP) - – A Dutch boy who miraculously survived a Libyan plane crash that killed 103 people including his parents is confused but stable, a doctor said Thursday, as relatives arrived in Tripoli to comfort him.

The boy, identified only as "Ruben" by the Dutch foreign ministry but more fully named by the Dutch media as nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw, has come round after surgery to his smashed legs, the doctor treating him in a Tripoli hospital said.

"He woke up (late Wednesday night) and is in good condition," the doctor said, while stressing that the boy, the sole survivor of Wednesday's disaster, was confused and "still is not reacting well to his surroundings."

"The child underwent several rounds of surgery to his legs. He had simple fractures and double fractures," the doctor said on Libyan state television, which also showed pictures of Ruben's legs in casts.

A Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said an uncle and an aunt arrived in Tripoli Thursday on a Netherlands government plane and were taken to the hospital "to make sure that Ruben will see family faces next to his bed." Facts:Deadly plane accidents in the past five years

According to the Dutch NOS public broadcaster, the boy recognised his family and smiled when they entered his hospital room.

Ruben would be flown back home "as soon as his medical condition allows," the spokesman said.

Ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger told AFP that Ruben was doing "reasonably well."

"A colleague from the embassy (in Tripoli) was able to speak with him. He told her he was Ruben, nine years old, from the city of Tilburg," Prommersberger said. "He is not in a critical condition."

Dutch newspaper Babants Dagblad said the boy was likely Ruben van Assouw from Tilburg in the southern Netherlands who had been on safari in South Africa with his mother Trudy, 41, father Patrick, 40, and his brother Enzo, 11.

Also on board the Dutch government plane to Tripoli were forensic experts, consular staff and transport ministry staff, the foreign ministry said.

Libya's Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan said a total of 103 people -- 92 passengers of nine nationalities and an 11-strong Libyan crew -- died when an Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 coming from Johannesburg disintegrated on landing at Tripoli airport.

The Dutch ministry said on Thursday that 70 Dutch nationals were among the dead, while a diplomat said family members from the Netherlands have been flown in to Libya courtesy of Afriqiyah to identify the bodies and prepare their repatriation.

The ministry added in a statement that "the family of the nine-year-old Ruben, the sole survivor of the disaster", were among those who perished.

Johannesburg private Talk Radio 702 reported on Thursday that at least 10 South Africans died in the crash.

Libya's transport minister said the rest of the dead included two Germans as well as passengers from Britain, France, Finland, the Philippines and Zimbabwe, although he could not give a breakdown of their numbers.

With the plane's black boxes recovered, investigators from manufacturers Airbus and France where the plane was built have also flown to join the inquiry led by Libya, which has ruled out terrorism as the cause of Wednesday's crash.

Witnesses spoke of the aircraft inexplicably breaking up as it came in to land in clear weather.

"It is too soon to know the causes of the accident," Sabri Shadi, the chairman of the board of Afriqiyah Airways, said about the probe into the crash.

"Several committees have been set up to investigate and we need some time before we can draw any conclusions," he said.

"A preliminary report should be published in the next few days but definitive results will not be know for several days, even weeks," the chairman added.

Shadi said that after a first meeting which grouped the team that US investigators were to join the probe on Friday. The crash scene, meanwhile, has been placed under police guard.

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