Libya plane crash boy survivor getting better: doctor
A Dutch boy who miraculously survived a Libyan plane crash that killed 103 people, including his parents, greeted relatives with a smile as they arrived to comfort him, a doctor said on Thursday.
The boy, identified as “Ruben” by the Dutch foreign ministry but more fully by Dutch media as nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw, is recovering after surgery to his smashed legs, the doctor treating him in Tripoli said.
Dr Siddiq ben Dilla told AFP the boy, who was the sole survivor when the plane crashed on landing at Tripoli airport on Wednesday, recognised his relatives and smiled when they entered his hospital room.
“His family is with him now,” he said. “His memory is good: as soon as his relatives walked in he smiled, and was happy to see them.
“He is getting better, is beginning to talk again and has asked for food,” Dilla told AFP. “Compared with yesterday he’s very good. We have repaired all his fractures — effectively several operations in one.”
Earlier a Dutch foreign ministry spokesman said an uncle and an aunt arrived in Tripoli on 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.”
Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said: “He was, of course, after the disaster he experienced, after the great loss of his parents and brother, happy to see two familiar faces at his bedside.
“His condition is stable but it is not yet possible to transport him,” Verhagen added.
The boy’s doctor said that if his health continued to improve, he should have recovered enough to be flown home in the next couple of days.
Dutch newspaper Brabants Dagblad said the boy was probably 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 brother Enzo, 11.
The paper quoted his grandmother An van de Sande as saying 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 was quoted as saying.
Libyan Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zidan said a total of 103 people — 92 passengers of nine nationalities and an 11-strong Libyan crew — died when the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 coming from Johannesburg disintegrated on landing.
The Dutch ministry said on Thursday that 70 Dutch nationals were among the dead, while a diplomat said relatives from the Netherlands have been flown to Libya courtesy of Afriqiyah to identify the bodies and prepare their repatriation.
A ministry statement added 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.
The Belgian foreign ministry said two of its nationals died, one of them a resident of the Netherlands.
Zidan said the rest of the dead included passengers from Britain, France, Finland, Germany, the Philippines and Zimbabwe, although he could not give a breakdown of their numbers. It was unclear how many were dual nationals.
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 the 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.
“Several committees have been set up to investigate and we need some time before we can draw any conclusions.
“A preliminary report should be published in the next few days but definitive results will not be known for several days, even weeks.”
Shadi was speaking after a first meeting of the team, which US investigators were to join on Friday.