Ruben van Assouw, Sole Plane Crash Survivor, Learns of Parents' Death and Heads Home to the Netherlands

Ruben van Assouw, the sole plane crash survivor, heads home to the Netherlands.

ByABC News
May 14, 2010, 1:08 PM

May 14, 2010— -- Relatives of the 9-year-old boy who was the sole survivor of a plane crash earlier this week in Libya told him today that the rest of his family perished in the crash.

His aunt and uncle broke the devastating news to Ruben van Assouw on Friday morning, according to the Associated Press. His relatives are expected to take him home to the Netherlands Saturday morning.

Ruben has been recovering at Tripoli's El Khadra hospital since Wednesday's crash, which killed all the other 103 passengers aboard the Airbus 330-200 from Johannesburg.

Among those believed to be killed in the Afriqiyah Airways crash were the boy's father, Patrick, mother Trudy and 11-year-old brother Enzo. Ruben van Assouw was found by rescuers still strapped in his seat and breathing in an area of desert sand strewn with the plane's debris.

"Considering the circumstances, Ruben is doing well. He sleeps a lot. Now and then he is awake and ... is clear," his aunt and uncle Trudy and Patrick van Assouw said in the statement. "This morning, we told Ruben exactly what has happened. He knows both his parents and brother are deceased. Now with the whole family we will take care of Ruben's future."

"We have two kinds of sorrow to deal with, because Ruben is in a very bad situation but we have also lost family members," they added. "The next period will be a rough period for us."

Before learning of the death of his parents and brother, Ruben told a reporter with the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf in a telephone interview that he just wants to go home.

"I don't know how I got here. ... I just want to get going," he said. "I want to get washed, dressed and then go."

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The boy's aunt and uncle have flown in from the Netherlands to be at his side as he recovers from four and half hours of surgery, repairing multiple leg fractures. Officials have said the boy is still unaware that his parents and brother died in the flight from South Africa. Forensic investigations to confirm the identity of all who perished have just begun.

The Dutch transportation authority ANWB said Ruben will arrive in the Dutch city of Eindhoven -- about halfway between Amsterdam and Brussels -- at 1 p.m. Saturday local time (7 a.m. in New York). His surviving family has asked the government to shield the boy from the public and authorities have selected a military base rather than a commercial airport for his arrival to help facilitate that request.

The van Assouw family had gone to South Africa during the boys' spring school vacation to celebrate the parents' 12 1/2-year wedding anniversary, a Dutch tradition.