Woman Tells Court How She Survived Plane Crash That Killed 152 Passengers

The lone survivor of the 2009 Yemenia Airways plane crash that killed 152 passengers took the stand on Monday (May 23) in a Paris courtroom.
credit: REUTERS / Alamy.
As reported by ABC News, Bahia Bakari was the plane crash's the sole survivor and recounted her ordeal as a 12-year-old girl, hearing screams of passengers, clinging to debris from Yemenia Airways for hours, and desperately hoping that her mother was still alive.

Unfortunately, Bakari's mother was among 152 people who died on the flight operated by Yemen Airways, which is now known as Yemenia.

Bakari was dressed all in white and praised for her bravery as she delivered her emotional testimony.
Bahia Bakari arrives to attend the trial at the courthouse in Paris, France, on May 9, 2022. Credit: REUTERS / Alamy.
"We were landing, 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," she said.

Yemen's national airline has been charged with manslaughter and unintentional injuries over the crash, which occurred at 11:53 PM, and caused the deaths of 141 passengers and 11 crew members. The airline has denied responsibility.

Now 25 years old and a real estate agent, Bakari told the courtroom what happened on the day of the unfortunate tragedy. She and her mother traveled to Comoros to attend a wedding. The plane departed from Paris, made a stopover in Marseille, and then landed in Sanaa, Yemen.

Bakari described switching to a smaller plane to go from the Yemeni capital to Moroni, Comoros, and remembered that "everyone was exhausted" as it was a night flight.

Suddenly, the plane descended into the ocean. Bakari said that she grabbed a floating part of the demolished plane and stayed in the water for 11 hours before being saved by fishermen.

The young woman remembered hearing "female voices which screamed for help in Comorian" at first. She then fell asleep and woke up alone: "It was so long. I almost gave up. I almost lost hope. Thinking about my mom helped me to hold up. I convinced myself that everyone except me made it home safe." As the hours passed, she said: "I lost track of time when I was in the water."

She was eventually rescued and taken to the Moroni hospital before being sent to France. The lone survivor suffered a broken collarbone, a broken hip, burns, and other injuries. "Today, I don’t suffer any physical effects, but my mother is gone. I was very close to her," she emotionally said.

Bakari was in hospital when her mother had her funeral so she was unable to attend, but she says she's fortunate that her mother's body was identified and that she had a proper burial.

She has two younger siblings and depended mostly on her father to help with her trauma. She admitted that she didn't seek therapy after her accident, saying: "I didn’t feel comfortable talking to a stranger. I was close with my family."
Alain Joyandet, Bahia Bakari, and her family arrive for a dinner at Joyandet's residence in Paris on Sep 6, 2009 Credit: REUTERS / Alamy.
Bakari added that she is doing much better now and resumed flying two years after the crash. She revealed that she doesn’t suffer traumatic flashbacks, but still doesn't feel at ease in the water.

Despite the pain of reliving the memories, Bakari said she felt relieved to have a trial, however, no representatives of the company attended the Paris trial. She said she wishes the company would apologize.

In 2015, the airline was ordered in civil proceedings by two French courts to pay more than 30 million euros ($31.6 million). In 2018, a confidential agreement was inscribed between the airline and 835 beneficiaries, who had to wait several more years to obtain compensation.

Bakari stood with more than 250 plaintiffs, who mostly come from Comoros. The trial was broadcast live in a courtroom in Marseille, where many of the victims came from. The trial ends on June 2 and the airline faces a fine of up to 225,000 euros ($237,000).

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