Libya Airplane Deaths Shake Dutch Nation

May 12, 2010 Updated: May 12, 2010

Libyan security forces and rescue teams inspect the debris of an Afriqiyah Airways passenger plane which crashed during landing at Tripoli airport on May 12, 2010. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan security forces and rescue teams inspect the debris of an Afriqiyah Airways passenger plane which crashed during landing at Tripoli airport on May 12, 2010. (Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images)
AMSTERDAM—A 10-year-old boy was carried into the hospital in Libya's capital, Tripoli, on early Wednesday morning, suffering multiple fractures and a wound to the face. More injured were expected to be brought in, but they never came. The child, believed by his doctors to be a Dutch national turned out to be the only survivor of a crashed Airbus A330-200 at Tripoli's airport.

The airliner, operated by Lybian airline Afriqiyah Airways, was carrying 93 passengers and 11 crew members when it crashed near the landing strip, killing all but one.

Images of the crash site, showing parts ripped off the airplane spread over a wide area, quickly spread around the world. The news shook residents in The Netherlands, since 58 of the passengers were Dutch nationals, making it one of the largest plane crashes involving Dutch nationals in history.

Flags were raised at half-mast throughout The Netherlands, scheduled TV programming on public and commercial channels was stalled to cover the crash, and political parties postponed their election campaigns.

"This is a large group of Dutch nationals after all, so it's a deeply sad message we have this day,” said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen called it a “disaster of huge proportions.”

Other victims were from South Africa, Libya, Austria, Germany, Zimbabwea, France and the UK. The nationalities of 19 victims remains unclear, Afriqiyah Airways said in a statement.

A flag hangs half mast at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on May 12, 2010, in respect for the casualties of the Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330. (Toussaint Kluiters/AFP/Getty Images)
A flag hangs half mast at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport on May 12, 2010, in respect for the casualties of the Libyan Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A330. (Toussaint Kluiters/AFP/Getty Images)

Soon after the crash, the company announced that the families of victims were given a chance to be flown to the crash site, with no visas required.

The Royal Dutch Tourist Association ANWB is sending a team of three specialists on Thursday to repatriate the Dutch child that survived the crash as soon as possible. Dutch media reported that the boy was on the flight with his parents and 11-year-old brother.

It is unclear what caused the Airbus A330-200 airliner to crash. Possibility of an ash cloud coming from an Iceland volcano, or a terrorist attack, have been ruled out as causes by officials.

One security official told AFP that the plane "exploded on landing and totally disintegrated."

Another official said that the plane had burst into flames.

Good weather at the time of the crash, with a sight distance of 2.9 miles, raised questions about how the plane crashed so close to the runway.

"Preliminary reports indicate that the aircraft crashed short of the runway threshold during approach," Airbus said in a statement.

The aircraft manufacturer sent a team of investigators to Tripoli to join efforts in investigating the two recovered black boxes, containing flight recordings and the cause of the crash.

The plane was delivered brand new to the airliner in September last year, and its final flight was its 420th on record.

Additional reporting by Marco 't Hoen

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