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Published: Thursday, 5/13/2010

Boy survives air crash that kills 103


TRIPOLI, Libya - A 10-year-old Dutch boy was the lone "miracle" survivor of a plane crash yesterday that killed 103 people in the Libyan capital.

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 showed the boy, one eye bruised and swollen closed, breathing through an oxygen mask with intravenous lines connected to his body and a monitor at his bedside. Doctors said he was expected to survive.

The boy appeared groggy as he was tended by a doctor in scrubs and a veiled, gloved, and masked nurse.

The injured youngster wore a crisp pink gown and lay on a blue disposable pad. Layers of white gauze covered his head.

The Libyan jetliner crashed minutes before landing after a 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, the Royal Dutch Tourism Board said.

Little is known about the dark-haired survivor, 10, who underwent surgery for fractures in both legs. Little is known about the dark-haired survivor, 10, who underwent surgery for fractures in both legs.
AP Enlarge

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.

Libya's transport minister, Mohammad Zaidan, said the plane's flight data recorders had been found and turned over to analysts.

He said the cause of the crash was under investigation, but authorities ruled out a terrorist attack.

Officials had no immediate explanation for the boy's survival. However, aviation experts said lone survivors, while rare, are not unknown.

There have been at least five cases this decade of a single survivor in a commercial plane crash. Last summer, a 12-year-old girl was found clinging to wreckage 13 hours after a plane went down in the water off the Comoros Islands.

"The idea of a lone survivor might seem a fluke, but it has happened several times," said Patrick Smith, an American airline pilot and aviation author.

William Voss, president of Flight Safety Foundation in Alexandria, Va., said sometimes children survive because of their small size.

In 1987, a 4-year-old girl was the only survivor of a Northwest flight that crashed during takeoff from Detroit Metro Airport. That crash killed 154 people.

However, aviation expert and retired pilot John Nance said there's not enough evidence to say children have an advantage.

In The Netherlands, flags were lowered and campaigning for parliamentary elections was suspended to mourn the dead. Hundreds 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.

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