Monday, November 29, 1999

Sole Libya crash survivor returns home to Netherlands

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The nine-year-old sole survivor of a Libyan plane crash flew back home to the Netherlands on Saturday, after he was told his parents and his brother were among the 103 people killed in the disaster.Ruben Van Assouw, who is from the southern Dutch city of Tilburg, arrived at the southern airport of Eindhoven onboard a Libyan ambulance plane, a Reuters witness said. He was accompanied by his aunt, uncle and a Libyan doctor."His situation is good now. He talked. He is progressing very well," Libyan orthopaedic specialist Sadig Bendala, who led the doctors treating Van Assouw of several bone fractures, said before he left Tripoli's airport with the boy.An Airbus A330-200, which had been in service only since September, was flying from Johannesburg to the Libyan capital when it crashed just short of the runway early on Wednesday.Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's influential son Saif al Islam, hailed Van Assouw's survival as "Allah (God)'s miracle".Van Assouw's dramatic end to what started as a fun family safari in South Africa has attracted an outpouring of condolences in the Netherlands, which lost 70 nationals in the crash, including the boy's parents and 11-year old brother.His family thanked officials and doctors but also asked for the media to respect their privacy."We have two kinds of sorrow to deal with, because Ruben is in a terrible situation, but we have also lost family members, our brother and sister and our nephew Enzo. The future will be difficult for us," the family said in the statement.None of the bodies have been repatriated outside Libya as authorities said they were waiting for the dead relatives to provide details of distinguishing marks such as tattoos and scars, or DNA and medical records to help identify them.(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis, Svebor Kranjc in Einhoven and Salah Sarrar in Tripoli; Editing by Reed Stevenson)

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