Sole Libya plane crash survivor back in the 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 Promemrsberger told AFP. "There won't be any more information, any more updates."

The boy's aunt and uncle said on Friday that Ruben was now aware that his mother, father and 11-year-old brother died in Wednesday's crash at Tripoli airport, whose cause remains unknown.

"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."

The Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330 flight from Johannesburg in South Africa disintegrated on landing.

A commission of inquiry said Saturday that the plane did not catch fire before hitting 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," the boy told a reporter of the Telegraaf newspaper in a conversation on the mobile phone of one of his doctors, adding: "I really want to go home."


© 2010 AFP

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