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U.S./World

Safari ends in catastrophe for lone survivor

| Friday, May 14, 2010

TRIPOLI, Libya -- The Dutch family -- mom, dad and two young sons -- was headed home from a dream safari in South Africa when their plane plunged to Earth in Libya. Rescuers found a single passenger alive: 9-year-old Ruben, still strapped in his seat.

The sole survivor slept peacefully Thursday, a stuffed orange Tigger tucked under his arm in a hospital room filled with bouquets of flowers. His left eye, forehead and slim torso were marked with bruises and scrapes; his left leg was immobilized in a blue and white cast.

Ruben smiled and spoke briefly to an aunt and uncle who rushed to his bedside from Holland, but the boy has yet to be told his parents and 11-year-old brother are dead.

The child was recovering well after 4.5 hours of surgery to repair multiple fractures to his legs, a hospital official said.

Ruben, his brother Enzo and their parents, Trudy and Patrick van Assouw, had gone to South Africa during the boys' spring school vacation to celebrate the couple's 12.5-year wedding anniversary, a Dutch tradition.

Their Libyan-owned jetliner was minutes from landing in Tripoli on Wednesday after a more than seven-hour journey across Africa when it crashed into a sandy field at the edge of the runway, killing 103 people.

The child was discovered about half a mile from the tail section of the Airbus A330-200, authorities said, indicating he may have been sitting in the front of the aircraft when it broke into pieces.

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