x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Boy is lone survivor of Libyan crash

103 die aboard same type of Airbus aircraft lost flown by Air France that was lost over the Atlantic near Brazil.

A Libyan policeman walks amid the debris of the Afriqiyah Airways passenger plane which crashed during landing at Tripoli airport.
A Libyan policeman walks amid the debris of the Afriqiyah Airways passenger plane which crashed during landing at Tripoli airport.

CAIRO // An eight-year-old Dutch boy is believed to be the only survivor after an Afriqiyah Airways jet crashed early yesterday morning while landing in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. The crash killed 92 passengers and its 11 crew members, Libyan officials said. The cause of the crash remains unknown, but Libyan transport officials said investigators had already recovered both of the aircraft's "black boxes" - the devices that record data and cockpit voices.

Weather conditions in Tripoli were reportedly calm the morning of the crash. At a news conference yesterday in Tripoli, Mohammed Ali Zidan, Libya's minister of transport, ruled out terrorism as a possible cause. Airbus, the European airline manufacturer, confirmed on its website that an Airbus A330-200, crashed during its approach to the runway in Tripoli. The aircraft had departed from Johannesburg, South Africa, the previous evening and had been scheduled to proceed to Gatwick Airport in the UK after its stop in the Libyan capital.

During a press conference in Johannesburg yesterday, Nicky Knapp, a representative from Airports Company South Africa, said most of the passengers were in transit to destinations in Europe. Seven passengers were to remain with the flight to London, while 32 had connecting tickets to Brussels, 42 were bound for Düsseldorf, Germany, and one passenger was headed to Paris. While the manifest has not been released, Mr Zidan said the flight included 22 Libyans. Dutch foreign ministry officials said 62 Dutch holiday-makers had been on board.

The ministry's website yesterday said the only survivor, an unidentified Dutch boy who reportedly suffered broken bones from the crash, was undergoing surgery in Tripoli. Dutch embassy officials were waiting for doctors to complete the operation before attempting to establish the child's identity. According to initial reports from Libyan authorities, the child is in stable condition. Libyan television broadcast images of the boy lying in a hospital bed with bandages on his head and breathing through an oxygen mask.

Maxime Verhagen, the foreign minister of the Netherlands, said on the ministry's website: "Our first thoughts are for the victims and their loved ones. Many families will now be facing terrible uncertainty, and we are doing everything we can to get a clear picture of the situation as soon as possible." Airbus officials told reporters yesterday the company would "provide full technical assistance" to investigators of the crash.

At the time of the incident, the Airbus jet was only eight months old, according to a statement on the company's website. The aeroplane had seen about 1,600 hours of flight time during 420 flights. The aircraft was inspected three times by France's Directorate General of Civil Aviation since it was put into service late last year, according to the Reuters news agency, which quoted an unnamed official from the European Aviation Safety Agency.

Afriqiyah Airways said the crash was the first such incident in the airline's nine-year history. The Airbus A330, a twin-engined aircraft that has been in use since 1992, made headlines last summer after an Air France flight from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean. Investigators never found conclusive evidence pointing to the cause of that crash, but France's Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety stated that faulty pitot tubes, which measure the aircraft's speed, may have been a factor.

In June last year a 13-year-old girl was the sole survivor when a Yemenia Airlines Airbus A310 crashed in the Indian Ocean off the Comoros, killing 152 people. Bahia Bakari, who lost her mother in the crash, clung to a floating piece of debris for eight hours before being rescued. @Email:mbradley@thenational.ae