Investigators in Libya to scour site of crashed plane

Tripoli–Aviation experts arrived in Tripoli on Thursday to scour the scattered remains of an Airbus jet that crashed in the Libyan capital and killed all but one of the 104 people on board.

The sole survivor of Afriqiyah Airways Flight 8U771 was a 9-year-old Dutch boy returning from a safari holiday with his family in South Africa, a Dutch newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Airbus EAD.PA A330-200 plane flying from Johannesburg was preparing to land in Tripoli when it crashed short of the runway early on Wednesday. Libya’s transport minister has ruled out terrorism as the cause.

A technical team from Airbus and Dutch investigators were taking part in the probe and would examine the black boxes recovered from the wreckage.

“The Airbus team has arrived in Tripoli to begin their investigation,” Omrane al-Zabadi, head of media at Afriqiyah airline, told Reuters.

Aviation experts said the almost brand new Airbus appeared to have hit the ground several hundred meters short of the runway in visibility of 5 to 6 km.

They said the airport approach lacked systems to provide crew with the aircraft’s distance and height from the runway, although it was too early to say why it hit the ground and disintegrated, leaving only the tailfin intact.

“Statistically the accident rate for these non-precision approaches is higher than for precision approaches. But we don’t know if that is significant in this case at all,” said Paul Hayes, director of safety at Ascend in London.

“The total destruction of the aircraft in a (runway) undershoot is unusual.”

There had been uncertainty since the crash about the young survivor’s identity but the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Thursday he was a boy named Ruben from the southern Dutch city of Tilburg.

“An employee from the Dutch embassy in Tripoli talked to him. He told them his name is Ruben and is 9-years-old and from Tilburg. He is doing reasonably well considering the circumstances,” the Dutch ministry said in a statement.

The boy had suffered leg fractures but was in a stable condition, doctors at a Tripoli hospital said on Wednesday.

A woman said to be the boy’s grandmother told Dutch paper Brabants Dagblad that he was travelling with his 11-year-old brother Enzo and parents Trudy and Patrick van Assouw and had been on a safari in South Africa.

The Foreign Ministry said an aunt and uncle had landed in Tripoli and would quickly visit the boy at the hospital. The plane also carried six Dutch officials, including specialists to identify people or investigate plane crashes.

Afriqiyah Airways late on Wednesday adjusted the number of nationalities of the dead, saying 58 Dutch, 6 South Africans, 2 Libyans, 2 Austrians, 1 German, 1 Zimbabwean, 1 French, and 2 British nationals were on board.

The plane also carried 11 crew members, all Libyan, and 19 people whose nationality still needed to be confirmed, Afriqiyah said.

Zabadi said relatives of the dead would arrive on Thursday to try to identify the bodies.

The aircraft is the same type as Air France AIRF.PA Flight 447, which crashed in the Atlantic on June 1 last year. The cause of that crash has not been firmly identified.

Tripoli-based Afriqiyah airline, backed by the Libyan government, has been in operation since 2001 and has been flying 10 Airbus jets with an average age of five years.

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