Libyan plane crashes near Tripoli, killing at least 96; Dutch say 61 from the Netherlands

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tourism board says 61 Dutch killed in Libyan crash

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch tourism board says 61 of the victims of a plane crash in Libya were from the Netherlands — more than half of those on board.

The Royal Dutch Tourism Board ANWB released the figure on its website. One Dutch child survived Wednesday’s crash near Tripoli, the organization said. It did not give his age or condition.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A Libyan Afriqiyah Airways plane crashed Wednesday on approach to Tripoli’s airport, killing at least 96 people, the transport minister said. A 10-year-old Dutch boy was the only known survivor.

The airline said the Airbus A330-200 arriving from Johannesburg, South Africa was carrying 104 people — 93 passengers and 11 crew. The fate of the other 7 passengers was not immediately known.

Libyan state television showed a large field scattered with small and large pieces of plane debris and dozens of police and rescue workers with surgical masks and gloves, some of them carrying at least one body away. They gathered small personal items such as wallets and cell phones from the wreckage.

Others sifted through debris — some of it still smoldering — including a flight recorder and green seats with television screens on them. A large piece of the plane’s tail was visible, bearing Afriqiyah’s brightly colored logo with the numbers “9.9.99,” a reference to the date of the founding of the African Union.

Transport Minister Mohammed Ali Zaidan said 96 bodies have been recovered from the wreckage. Libya’s official JANA news agency quoted him as saying a Dutch boy has survived the crash, but did not say anything on his condition.

Rescue workers were looking for more bodies, Zaidan said.

In Amsterdam, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said dozens of Dutch citizens were aboard the plane and confirmed a Dutch boy survived. The exact number of Dutch victims was not known, he said.

The plane was approaching the airport to land in the Libyan capital Tripoli when it crashed at around 6 a.m. (0400 GMT, 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday) There was no immediate word on the cause, according to a statement by the airlines posted on its website.

Afriqiyah said flight 771 left Johannesburg at 1 a.m. Wednesday (2300 GMT Tuesday, 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday). It said Tripoli was the final destination.

“Afriqiyah Airways announces that our flight 771 had an accident during landing at Tripoli International airport,” the statement said. “At this moment, we have no information concerning possible casualties or survivors. Our information is that there were 93 passenger and 11 crew aboard. Authorities are conducting the search and rescue mission.”

The airlines later issued a second statement saying a search-and-rescue operation at the crash site “has now been completed and casualties have been moved to various hospitals.”

Weather conditions over Tripoli’s international airport were good on Wednesday, with three-mile (4.8-kilometer) visibility, scattered clouds at 10,000 feet and winds of only three miles per hour.

Daniel Hoeltgen, spokesman for the European Aviation Safety Agency said Afriqiyah has undergone 10 recent safety inspections at European airports, with no significant safety findings. He said a team of French crash investigators was already on its way to Tripoli.

“We are currently talking to Airbus and with the French accident investigator BEA, which will be involved in the investigation,” said Hoeltgen. “We will lend our support if this is required by authorities in charge.”

Afriqiyah Airways is not included on the European Union’s list of banned airlines. The list has nearly 300 carriers deemed by the EU not to meet international safety standards.

According to initial reports, the plane crashed as it neared the threshold of Tripoli International’s main east-west runway, while preparing to touch down from the east.

The main runway at Tripoli Airport is 3,600 yards (meters) long. According to international airport guides, it is not equipped with an Instrument Landing System. This all-weather, precision approach system guides descending planes down to the threshold of the runway.

But it does have two other systems that many other airports use worldwide — a high frequency omnidirectional radio system that pilots use to navigate their aircraft, and a non-directional beacon that also helps guide planes into the airport.

Afriqiyah Airways operates an all Airbus fleet. It was founded in April 2001 and is fully owned by the Libyan government.


Associated Press reporters Slobodan Lekic in Brussels, Salah Nasrawi in Cairo, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam, Donna Bryson in Johannesburg, South Africa, and David Rising in Berlin contributed to this report.

will not be displayed