Investigators in Libya comb site of crashed Airbus

Investigators in Libya comb site of crashed Airbus

Aviation experts combed debris for more clues on Thursday after finding the two black boxes from an Airbus jet that crashed at Libya's Tripoli airport, killing all but one of the 104 people on board, Reuters reported.

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.

Libya's government has ruled out an attack on the twin-aisle Airbus A330-200 that was flying from Johannesburg when it came down short of the runway early on Wednesday.

Experts from the Netherlands, United States and South Africa, a technical team from manufacturer Airbus and Libya's civil aviation authority began sifting through the scattered remains of the Airbus on Thursday.

They will back up a committee investigating the crash, Libya's transport minister said. "We are going to give full cooperation to this committee," Mohamed Zidan told reporters.

He said the two black boxes containing voice and technical data from the flight had been recovered in good condition and handed to the committee.

Aviation experts said the almost brand-new Airbus appeared to have hit the ground several hundred metres short of the Tripoli airport runway in visibility of 5 to 6 km (3-4 miles).

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 broke in pieces. Only the tailfin remained intact.

A total of 70 Dutch citizens died in the crash, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, more than the toll of 58 provided earlier by the airline.

Afriqiyah Airways said late on Wednesday that 6 South Africans, 2 Libyans, 2 Austrians, 1 German, 1 Zimbabwean, 1 French, and 2 British nationals were also on board.

Award-winning author Bree O'Mara, on her way to Britain to sign a book deal, was among the dead, South African media said.

Relatives of those killed were arriving to identify the bodies, Afriqiyah head of media Omrane el-Zabadi told Reuters.

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

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

SURVIVOR BOY

"He was, of course, after the disaster he experienced and the grave loss of his parents and brother, happy to see two familiar faces at his bedside," Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told a news conference.

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

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.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said an aunt and uncle had landed in Tripoli along with Dutch aviation experts and would quickly visit the boy at the hospital.

The Dutch investigation and identification team had encountered a "scene of utter devastation" at the crash site, Dutch minister Verhagen said, stressing the cause of the accident was still unknown.

He urged all relatives to stay in the Netherlands to assist in the identification of victims, but gave no firm indication of how long it would take or when repatriations could start.

Afriqiyah airline, backed by the Libyan government, has been in operation since 2001 and was flying 10 Airbus jets which had never had an accident, according to Ascend, which provides information on airlines.

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