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Dutch boy, 10, only survivor found after Libyan plane crash

TRIPOLI, Libya — A 10-year-old Dutch boy lay in a hospital bed, head bandaged, skin pale and legs shattered — the lone "miracle" survivor of a plane crash Wednesday that killed 103 people in the Libyan capital. Most victims were Dutch tourists returning from vacation in South Africa.

Little was known about the dark-haired boy, who was rushed to a hospital in Tripoli where he underwent surgery for multiple fractures in both legs.

The barely conscious child muttered "Holland, Holland," after he was found, a Dutch official said.

Libyan TV footage showed the boy, one eye bruised and swollen closed, breathing through an oxygen mask with multiple intravenous lines connected to his body and a monitor at his bedside. Doctors later said he was out of danger.

The Libyan jetliner crashed minutes before it was to land after a more than seven-hour flight across the African continent from Johannesburg. Little remained of the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus aside from its tail.

Sixty-one victims were Dutch, many of them families headed home after spending spring break in South Africa, according to the Royal Dutch Tourism Board. Authorities released no names.

Officials had no immediate explanation for the boy's survival. The head of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, called it "truly a miracle."

Flags were lowered Wednesday throughout the Netherlands and campaigning for parliamentary elections was suspended to mourn the dead. Hundreds of people phoned emergency numbers to ask about family and friends.

Prayers were also offered in South Africa. "We thank God for the sole survivor. In his survival, we see that even in this dark cloud of death, there is this ray of hope," said the Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba.

In a field near the airport runway, little was left of the Airbus A330-200. Dozens of police and rescue workers wearing surgical masks and gloves combed through the wreckage, removing wallets, cell phones and other debris, some of it still smoldering. At least one body was seen being carried away.

Video footage showed a flight recorder and green seats with television screens on them. The plane's tail displayed the numbers "9.9.99" — a reference to the date of the founding of the African Union.

Libya's transport minister, Mohammad Zaidan, said the plane's two black boxes had been found and turned over to analysts. He said that the cause of the crash was under investigation but that authorities had ruled out a terrorist attack.

Zaidan said the 10-year-old survivor was Dutch, but did not release his name.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said the boy told a Libyan doctor "Holland, Holland," when asked where he came from, but his nationality had not been confirmed. Dutch authorities said an embassy representative would visit the child.

Besides the Dutch, the other victims were French, German, South African, Finnish, British and Libyan, according to the transportation minister. Many of the passengers were booked to travel from Tripoli on to other destinations in Europe.

Afriqiyah Airways, which was founded in 2001 and is fully owned by the Libyan government, is not included on the European Union's list of banned airlines. Wednesday's crash was its first, according to the Aviation Safety Network website.

The airline had undergone 10 recent safety inspections at European airports with no significant safety findings, according to Daniel Hoeltgen, spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency. He said a team of French crash investigators was en route to Tripoli.

Airbus said the plane was delivered in September to Afriqiyah Airways. The plane had accumulated about 1,600 flight hours in about 420 flights.

Airline crashes with single survivors

June 30, 2009: A Yemenia Airlines flight crashed into the Indian Ocean off the Comoros Islands, killing 152 people on board. A 12-year-old girl clinging to debris survived.

Aug. 27, 2006: A Comair commuter jet mistakenly trying to take off on a runway that was too short crashed into a field in Lexington, Ky., killing 49 people. The co-pilot, who was pulled from the broken cockpit, was the lone survivor.

July 8, 2003: A Sudan Airways flight that reported technical problems after takeoff crashed about 3 miles from the Port Sudan airport, killing 116 people. The only survivor, a 3-year-old, was crying when he was found on a bush by a nomad.

March 6, 2003: An Air Algerie passenger jet crashed shortly after takeoff deep in the Sahara Desert. A young soldier survived; 102 people were killed.

Dec. 15, 1997: A Tajikistan Airlines plane crashed minutes before it was to land at the Sharjah airport, in the United Arab Emirates. Eighty-five people died; the sole survivor was the pilot.

Jan. 11, 1995: An Intercontinental Aviation flight crashed near Cartagena, Colombia, killing 51 people. The sole survivor was a 9-year-old girl, who was found lying on a thick pad of water lilies near several bodies.

Nov. 14, 1992: A Vietnam Airlines flight crashed near the Vietnamese beach resort of Nha Trang after it struck a ridge. All six crew members and 24 of the 25 passengers were killed. The injured sole survivor, a 31-year-old Dutch woman, was taken to a local clinic, and villagers only informed authorities of her survival when she regained consciousness a week later.

Aug. 16, 1987: Northwest Flight 255 stalled after takeoff from Detroit and crashed onto a highway. All six crew and 148 of 149 passengers were killed, as were two people on the ground. The sole survivor was a 4-year old girl who was found strapped into an airplane seat.

Jan. 26, 1972: A Yugoslav Airlines flight blew up over Czechoslovakia. Flight attendant Vesna Vulovic was the sole survivor after plummeting 33,000 feet in the plane's tail cone and landing on a steep, heavily wooded slope near the village of Srbska Kamenice. All 27 of the other passengers and crew aboard the Douglas DC-9 airliner perished.

Associated Press

Dutch boy, 10, only survivor found after Libyan plane crash 05/12/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 12:13am]

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