Boy who survived Libya crash returns to Netherlands

15th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw, the sole survivor of a Libyan airliner crash, arrived back home in the Netherlands on Saturday, three days after the disaster that killed his parents, brother and 100 others, officials said.

"The plane with the surviving boy has landed" at the Eindhoven military air base, spokesman Markus van Tol of the Dutch tourism federation ANWB told AFP, as reports said Ruben was then transferred to an ambulance with blacked out windows and taken to an undisclosed hospital.

Accompanied by an uncle and aunt and the Libyan doctor who had been treating him, the air ambulance transporting the boy landed around 2:15 pm (1215 GMT), according to Dutch news agency ANP.

The flight had left from Matiga military airfield in the Libyan capital about three hours earlier, with every effort being made to hide the boy from the sight of journalists, photographers and onlookers on both ends.

"He's a very special patient. He is talking and in good health. I will stay (in the Netherlands) for as long as necessary," Dr Siddiq ben Dilla told AFP before the Cessna Citation air ambulance took off from Libya.

Police prevented photographers from approaching as Ruben was taken from hospital by stretcher, covered in a blue blanket and with a black cap on his head and scarf covering his face, to the ambulance for the journey to the airport.

Upon landing, the boy identified by the foreign ministry only as Ruben from Tilburg in the southern Netherlands and more fully as Ruben van Assouw by Dutch media, was taken by ambulance with two doctors and a nurse to hospital.

About an hour after landing at Eindhoven, the foreign ministry said "Ruben has arrived safely at his final destination", which it declined to specify.

"This concludes the news about Ruben," foreign ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger told AFP. "There won't be any more information, any more updates."

The Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 flight from Johannesburg in South Africa disintegrated on landing. Officials said 70 Dutch citizens were among the 103 people killed, although Afriqiyah Airways said there were 67 Dutch on board, including Ruben.

The boy was found alive, strapped into his seat at the accident site.

A commission of inquiry said Saturday that the plane did not catch fire before hitting the ground.

"We have not found debris detached from the plane or evidence of fire before the accident," commission chief Neji Dhaou was quoted as saying by official news agency JANA.

"The fire broke out 400 metres (yards) from the initial impact with the ground."

Ruben himself has told a Dutch newspaper he could remember nothing about the crash.

"I am fine, but my legs hurt a lot," he said in a telephone interview published Friday, adding: "I really want to go home."

Ruben's aunt and uncle said on Friday the boy was now aware that his mother, father and 11-year-old brother died in the crash.

"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 time ahead will be a difficult period for us," the statement said. "We hope that the media will respect our privacy."


© 2010 AFP

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