TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – The Dutch boy who is the sole survivor of a plane crash in Libya left for home Saturday on a medical evacuation flight, just hours after being told that his parents and older brother perished in the disaster.
Nine-year-old Ruben van Assouw’s survival of a crash that shattered the airliner into pieces has stunned doctors and given the tragedy at least one hopeful story. The Afriqiyah Airways flight from South Africa hit the ground short of the runway while landing Wednesday in Tripoli, killing 103 people, including the boy’s parents and 11-year-old brother.
The boy was recovering well enough to make the journey and most likely would not have to be sedated during the trip, said Sadig Bendala, one of the doctors who treated the boy at a Tripoli hospital.
“He’s OK, he’s fine today,” Bendala said.
The plane carrying him home to the Netherlands was equipped with sophisticated medical equipment.
Bendala accompanied him on the flight and said he was emotionally touched by his story. “He’s a special patient. He’s a miracle,” Bendala said before boarding the plane. “For sure I will have a good relationship with him for the rest of my life.”
A group of four Libyan boy scouts waved from the tarmac as the plane taxied on the runway.
Hospital staff and Dutch Embassy officials have sought to protect the boy’s privacy, and as he was brought out of the hospital on a stretcher his face was covered with a sheet to shield him from view of a throng of clamoring journalists.
Dutch Foreign Ministry officials would not say precisely where the flight was headed.