News outlets are reporting that a 10-year-old Dutch boy is the sole survivor of a plane carrying 104 passengers and crew that crashed yesterday on approach to the airport in Tripoli, Libya.
The boy, whose name has not been released, was taken to a local hospital, where he is undergoing surgery and being treated for injuries including broken bones.
It’s a miracle – and yet is it is a miracle that has occurred numerous times. There is a long history of plane crashes that killed on everyone on board, except for one lone child. Last year, a teenage girl was the only survivor of a Yemenia Air crash and in 2003 , a toddler boy was the only passenger not be killed in a Sudan air crash. In the United States, the most famous example of this phenomenon occurred in 1987, when a Northwest Airline crashed on take-off outside of Detroit, killing all on board but for four-year-old Cecelia Cichan. And our Park Slope readers might well know about a 1960 plane that crashed on Sterling Place, which one boy survived by a day before succumbing to his injuries.
So is there something protective about being a child if the plane they are travelling in crashes? Experts admit to being baffled. The BBC looked at the issue last year, and found one safety expert who speculated that children might be somehow “cocooned” by their seats. Another wondered if children’s smaller size somehow left them more likely to encounter a physical object, such as a tree, that would break the force of their fall in a crash, leaving them more likely to survive.
Luckily, however, there is one thing we do know. Plane crashes might get more attention, but one’s chances of getting injured or dying in a car crash are significantly higher. Remember that the next time you book a flight.