Sole Libyan crash survivor lost parents

May 13, 2010 12:00 am

, THE HAGUE, May 13 – A nine-year-old Dutch boy, sole survivor of the Tripoli plane crash that killed 103 people, lost his parents and brother in an horrific end to a dream African safari, officials said Thursday.

The boy, identified by the foreign ministry only as Ruben, was visited a day after the crash by an aunt and uncle flown into Tripoli by the Dutch government, and smiled when he saw them, said the foreign ministry.

"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," Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told journalists.

"His condition is stable but it is not yet possible to transport him."

The ministry refused to reveal the surname of the boy, who hails from the southern city of Tilburg, to protect the family\’s privacy, but a regional daily newspaper said he was probably Ruben van Assouw.

The Brabants Daily quoted his grandmother An van de Sande as saying the boy had been on a South African safari with his brother Enzo, 11, mother Trudy, 41, and father Patrick, 40, 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," Van de Sande said.

Verhagen confirmed that the survivor\’s father, mother and 11-year-old brother were among 70 Dutch citizens who perished when an Afriqiyah Airways plane from Johannesburg disintegrated on landing around 6:00 am (0400 GMT) at Tripoli airport on Wednesday.

The Dutch tour operators federation, ANWB, said it had sent a team to Tripoli from Brussels on Thursday that included a trauma psychologist and an intensive care nurse to assess the boy\’s condition and bring him home.

"Their task is to assess the boy\’s psychological and physical condition, to see how he can be brought back to the Netherlands, and when," spokesman Ad Vonk told AFP.

Earlier, the boy\’s doctor said he had come round after surgery for his smashed legs and was in a stable condition but confused.

"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 the boy\’s legs in casts.

"He woke up (late Wednesday night) and is in good condition," the doctor said.

Meanwhile, forensic experts and consular staff arrived in Tripoli on Thursday morning to help identify the dead and provide support on the ground, said foreign ministry spokesman Francesco Mascini.

The Dutch Safety Board, an autonomous body, said it had sent two investigators to "observe" the Libyan investigation into the crash.

"They may do no independent investigation", a statement said, but were allowed under international regulations to visit the crash site and have access to all the evidence.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Verhagen met next-of-kin of the 70 victims on Thursday afternoon, in what the minister later described as a "an emotional meeting".

He urged all relatives to stay in the Netherlands "because they are needed to help gather information required for identification purposes", including providing DNA material.


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