Child survivor of Libyan crash flies home

The nine-year-old Dutch boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash in the Libyan capital left for home on Saturday, three days after the disaster that killed his parents, brother and 100 others.

Nine-year old Dutch boy Ruben van Assouw (C) is transferred onboard a plane heading towards the Netherlands at Mitiga airport in Tripoli May 15, 2010

Ruben van Assouw was accompanied on the flight from Matiga military airfield in the Libyan capital by his uncle, aunt and the Libyan doctor who had been treating him.

"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 Libyan air ambulance took off.

"I hope the trip goes well."

The Dutch foreign ministry refused to disclose the aircraft's destination, but the Dutch federation of tour operators said it would land at Eindhoven military airport.

It took off shortly after 12 noon (0900 GMT) for the roughly three-hour flight.

Earlier, police prevented photographers from approaching as Ruben was taken 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.

Dilla said flowers and presents given to the boy had been taken away from Al-Khadra hospital in Tripoli in a Dutch embassy vehicle.

The boy's aunt and uncle said on Friday that Ruben now knows that his mother, father and 11-year-old brother died in Wednesday's crash at Tripoli airport that killed a total of 103 people and whose cause remains unknown.

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

"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.

It said Ruben was doing well under the circumstances and had seen the flowers and messages of support sent to him.

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

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

"My name is Ruben and I am from Holland," Telegraaf newspaper reported on a telephone conversation with him. "I am fine, but my legs hurt a lot," the boy told a reporter on the mobile phone of one of his doctors.

"I am in a hospital," Ruben said. "I don't know how I got here, I don't know anything more. I really want to go home."

The Dutch newspaper Brabants Dagblad said Ruben had been on safari in South Africa with his mother Trudy, 41, father Patrick, 40, and brother Enzo.

The boy's grandmother, An van de Sande, said in a report on Thursday that the holiday had been to celebrate the couple's "copper" wedding anniversary.

A Libyan official said on Saturday that an "elderly" security agent died of shock on the day of the disaster when he saw the bodies at the crash site.

"He was a diabetic. He ran towards the scene but at the sight of the bodies his blood sugar levels soared and he died on the spot," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Investigators have said no technical problems were reported by the pilot before the jet crashed on Wednesday.

"The pilot did not report any problems. Until the very last moment things were normal between the pilot and the control tower," Neji Dhaou, the head of the Libyan commission of inquiry, said on Friday.

Paying tribute to the captain, Yussef Beshir Assaidi, Afriqiyah Airways called him widely experienced and "among the company's best" pilots.

Officials said 70 Dutch citizens were among the 103 people killed, although Afriqiyah Airways said there were 67 Dutch on board, including Ruben.

The airline said Flight 771 was also carrying 13 South Africans, 13 Libyans including the 11 crew, as well as four Belgians, two Austrians, one Briton, a French citizen, a German and a Zimbabwean.

Source: AFP

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