Libya plane crash boy survivor getting better: doctor

13th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

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."

"He could be repatriated in the next couple of days if his health continues to improve," Dilla said.

Ruben would be flown home "as soon as his medical condition allows," Dutch foreign ministry spokesman Christoph Prommersberger told AFP, adding that the boy was doing "reasonably well."

The two hospital visitors confirmed the boy was their nephew, another spokesman for the ministry said, adding that the family's name would not be confirmed "to respect their family life."

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.

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

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 an 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.

Zidan 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.

In Berlin, a foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that at least one German was among the dead.

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," 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," he added.

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

© 2010 AFP

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