Dutch Child Lone Survivor of Libya Plane Crash

Libyan authorities say Dutch child survived crash, all other passengers died.

May 12, 2010, 7:48 AM

May 12, 2010— -- A Dutch child is the only survivor of a fiery plane crash at Tripoli airport in Libya this morning that killed 103 people.

"All of the passengers and crew died except for one child," a Libyan security source told Reuters at Tripoli airport.

Libya's Transport Minister Mohamed Zidan said the 10-year-old child, who holds a Dutch passport, was hospitalized.

"The little boy has now come out of surgery, he was treated for fractures suffered during the crash," a Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesperson told ABC News. Officials said the boy had multiple fractures of both legs.

"We hope our colleagues will be able to see him soon to establish his identity," she said.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told the Associated Press, "We suppose he's Dutch because he said 'Holland Holland' to the doctor treating him."

Officials said that 62 of the 93 passengers on board were Dutch and the plane was being used by two Dutch tour operators, according to the Dutch Foreign Ministry. There were 11 crew members on board.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this morning we were shocked to hear there was a plane crash in Libya. As you heard, 103 passengers have died. We also heard this morning that several dozens of them are Dutch citizens" the Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said in a press conference this morning.

Thirteen hours after the crash, the prime minister voiced frustration at the scanty information arriving from Libya, including the lack of a final passenger list.

"We still don't have the exact information that we need," Balkenende said in a TV interview. "Things are still being figured out -- and we're in that phase."

Dutch flags were lowered and campaigning for the June 9 parliamentary election was suspended in respect for the dead.

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"People are calling us in a distraught state to find out more about their loved ones – we are now busy trying to arrange for the repatriation of the victims. There is a lot to do," Annelies Techelaar of the Dutch emergency services, told ABC News.

Multiple U.S. officials tell ABC News that preliminary information leads the US to believe there were "likely" no Americans aboard the flight.

What caused the Afriqiyah Airways flight from Johannesburg to crash is still not clear but Libyan authorities have discounted terrorism. According to a statement by the airline,

"Our flight 771 had an accident during landing at Tripoli International Airport," the statement said. "At this moment, we have no information concerning possible casualties or survivors. Our information is that there were 93 passenger and 11 crew aboard. Authorities are conducting the search and rescue mission."

The flight boxes have reportedly been recovered and are being examined. The weather in Tripoli was clear and South African aviation authorities say there was no initial indication of problems during take-off.

Africa's Air Safety Record

The flight was a connecting flight, it left Johannesburg for Tripoli and was then going to fly onward to London Gatwick.

Transit passengers were then due to fly on to Germany, France and Belgium with a few disembarking at Tripoli, South Afircan airport authorities said in a press conference.

"We express our sincere regret and sadness and on behalf of the airline as well we would like to express our condolences to the relatives and friends on flight 8U771," Nicky Knapp, spokesperson for ACSA, the South African company that manages its major airports, told reporters in Johannesburg today.

Libyan television showed pictures of emergency workers sifting through the debris of the plane. Footage indicates that the plane virtually disintegrated with only a chunk of the tail intact.

Airbus issued a statement confirming it had manufactured the plane involved in the crash. "Airbus will provide full technical assistance to the authorities responsible for the investigation into the accident," it said.

Plane crashes are not uncommon in Africa U.S. and international aviation experts estimate that airplanes in Africa are 15 times more likely to crash on average than in North America.

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report from June of last year highlighted the fact that only four countries in all of Africa have airport and airline safety standards meeting the requirements to receive the most favorable rating by the Federal Aviation Administration; North African countries of Egypt and Morocco, the tiny island West African country of Cape Verde and South Africa make the cut.

Reuters, The Associated Press and Ammu Kannampilly contributed to the reporting of this story.

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