'Miracle Girl' Who Survived Plane Crash Testifies in France

Bahia Bakari told her story in a French courtroom as part of a suit against Yemenia Air
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2022 2:40 PM CDT
Lone Survivor of Plane Crash Recounts Story to French Court
Franco-Comoran Bahia Bakari, the sole survivor of Yemenia Flight 626, an Airbus A310 that crashed into the sea off the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros, walks out during a break in the trial over the 2009 plane crash at the courthouse in Paris, France, May 9, 2022.   (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Bahia Bakari was 12 years old when fishermen plucked her from the Indian Ocean, where she was clinging to debris from Yemenia Air Flight 626. According to the Guardian, Bakari—the only survivor of the 2009 crash that killed 152 other passengers and crew—testified publicly in French court about her experience. She and her mother were headed from Paris to the Comoros Islands, between Mozambique and Madagascar, for her grandfather’s wedding. To reach the capital, Moroni, they changed planes in Yemen. "It was a smaller plane," Bakari testified, “there were flies inside and it smelled strongly like a bathroom." Otherwise, everything was normal until they started descending.

"I started to feel some turbulence, but people didn’t seem worried about it. Then I felt an electrical shock and I woke up in the water. I don't remember what happened between sitting in the plane and being in the water. I have a black hole," Bakari said, per the Washington Post. Evidently, she was not the only one to survive the impact, as she heard "female voices which screamed for help in Comorian" at first. Eventually, she fell asleep clinging to the debris. After her rescue, Bakari was treated for serious injuries, including burns and a broken hip and collarbone. She no longer suffers physical effects, "but my mother is gone," she told the court as she broke down in tears. “I was very close to her.”

Like most plaintiffs in the case, Bakari has Comorian roots. Comoros is a former colony of France, which is suing Yemenia over the deaths of 65 French citizens. The company faces just $237,000 in fines in the crash; however, per NPR, Yemenia was ordered by French courts to pay $31.6 million to victims' families in 2015, and another confidential agreement was struck for additional compensation in 2018. The airline is charged with being responsible for manslaughter and unintentional injuries. Based on the plane's black boxes, investigators blamed pilot error, saying "the accident was due to inappropriate actions by the crew on the flight commands, which brought the plane into a stall." After the crash, Bakari was hailed as the "miracle girl" by the French press. (More Yemenia Air stories.)

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