THE first group of relatives of seven South African passengers killed in the Afriqiyah Airways crash in Tripoli left SA for Libya last night to begin repatriation preparations.
"We've booked them on flights for today - tonight," said Charmaine Thome, manager of the airline management company Aviareps. Once there, they would be met by a representative from the South African embassy, then taken to a hotel, where they would be taken care of.
The South African embassy would, where possible, start identifying bodies. The families would have to do a visual identification and arrange for remains and belongings to be brought back home.
Only a young Dutch boy, Ruben van Assouw, survived the crash in Tripoli on Wednesday morning as the aircraft was about to land after its flight from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
He had been on holiday with his parents and brother, who did not survive the crash, according to reports. He was alert yesterday.
It was not yet clear whether he would be questioned by the French investigators who are helping the Libyan civil aviation authority to determine the cause of the crash.
Airbus spokesman Linden Birns said the company would provide only technical information to the investigators, because it would be inappropriate for them to investigate the crash themselves.
SA's international relations department spokesman, Dayanand Naidoo, said the department was treating the matter with great sensitivity towards the families and did not want to cause upset by releasing names or numbers of crash victims, until they were absolutely certain about the details.
"In the meantime we remain seized with the matter of continuing to render assistance to the families who have (contacted) us," Naidoo said. The airline had posted a statement saying seven South Africans had died.
The South African ambassador in Libya had indicated that rescuers had managed to retrieve some bodies from the wreckage, which was scattered across a wide space.
Global Aviation had lost cabin crew trainer Cathy Tillett and a retired manager, Norbert Taferner, and his wife Paula, in the crash. Democratic Alliance MP Anchen Dreyer's brother Frans also died.
The Star reported that Bree O'Mara, who won the Citizen Book Prize for her novel Home Affairs, had died in the crash. The newspaper also named Nigel Peters, who ran the maintenance division of AirQuarius Aviation; Hans Wolfaardt, who did aircraft painting for AirQuarius; Anton Matthee from Stellenbosch; and Robert Webber, who was on his way to join the British army.
BBC Online reported that a South African national who lived in Swansea, Wales, Priscilla Savathree Collick, also died in the crash.
A technical team from Airbus and Dutch investigators were taking part in the probe and would examine the black boxes recovered from the wreckage. "The Airbus team has arrived in Tripoli to begin their investigation," Omrane al-Zabadi, head of media at Afriqiyah airline, said. Aviation experts said the almost brand new Airbus appeared to have hit the ground several hundred metres short of the runway in visibility of 5km to 6 km.
They said the airport approach lacked systems to provide crew with the aircraft's distance and height from the runway. Sapa, Reuters