How a young girl was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 152 people (2024)

Bahia Bakari has lived through the worst nightmare of anyone who’s ever set foot on an airplane.

Just 12 at the time, she miraculously survived after the Yemenia Flight 626 she was on crashed into the Indian Ocean with 153 passengers on board.

Bahia, now 27, from Evry in France, was travelling to her grandfather’s wedding in the Comoros with her mother when things went wrong, earning her the nickname ‘the miracle girl’.

The duo had boarded the Airbus A310 plane operated by the flag carrier of Yemen from the country’s capital Sana’a to Moroni on the island of Comoros off the coast of Mozambique.

Suddenly in the middle of the night, the passenger plane crashed into the dark ocean just moments before it was set to descend to Moroni on June 29, 2009.

Only Bahia survived the deadly plunge, but her survival was a close call as the girl, who could not swim, clung onto debris in the water for 13 hours.

How the plane crashed

Unlike many other crashes with mass fatalities, Bakari has been able to share some insight into what happened that traumatic night.

In May 2022, Bahia described the moments leading up to the crash and her rescue during a trial against the airline in France attended by more than 100 family members and friends of victims, the Guardian reported.

She said: ‘It was a smaller plane, there were flies inside and it smelled strongly like a bathroom.’

The flight went ‘normally’ until the preparation for landing.

‘I started to feel the turbulence, but nobody was reacting much, so I told myself it must be normal.’

But then she felt ‘something like an electric shock go through my body.’

‘There’s a black hole between the moment when I was seated in the plane and the moment I found myself in the water.’

She woke up in the water in the middle of the night, confused and weak from the shock.

While clinging onto the largest piece she could find, Bahia ‘didn’t see how I was going to get through this,’ the Guardian reports citing her testimonial in court.

She tried to climb on top of the debris, but she lacked the strength.

Voices around her were ‘calling for help in Comorian,’ Bahia said.

The girl ‘cried out a bit but without much hope, because there was nothing but water around me and I couldn’t see anyone.’

‘I ended up falling asleep while holding on to the plane debris.’

When she woke up, she could see the coast, but ‘the water was really choppy.’

Incredibly, the then 12-year-old Bahia managed to hold on, thinking of her ‘incredibly protective’ mother until a rescue boat arrived 12 hours later.

The full scale of the horror didn’t dawn on her until later at the hospital in Moronoi.

Bahia had thought she was ‘the only one who fell’ and that others made it safely.

A psychologist at the hospital had to tell her she was the only survivor.

Why the Yemenia flight crashed?

The crash happened nine miles off the coast of Grande Comore island of the Comoros, a national that proclaimed independence from colonial French rule in 1975.

It is thought the accident was caused by the pilots’ failure to stabilise the plane’s altitude during the circle-to-land procedure, causing it to stall and crash.

The twin-engine Airbus plane was built in 1990, and at the time of the accident it had been in service for almost 20 years, according to Aviationfile.com.

The French court ruled in 2022 that Yemenia was guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

It was ordered to pay a €225,000 fine alongside €1,000,000 to Bahia and the families of 64 French citizens who died, Al Jazeera reported.

The airline denied responsibility, but its bosses did not attend the hearing, citing Yemen’s civil war at the time.

Yemenia said it would appeal the verdict.

An anonymous UN official at the airport claimed the control tower had received a notification that the plane was approaching before contact was lost, according to the Taipei Times.

The Comoros islands had seen unusually strong winds, with gusts up to 40mph and turbulence-prone conditions.

Officials determined there was no reason to suspect foul play, and that the accident was caused by ‘inappropriate action by the crew’ during an ‘unstabilised manoeuvre,’ Fox News reported citing the Comoros investigative commission director Bourhane Ahmed Bourhane.

When the court’s verdict to charge Yemenia was announced, Bahia welcomed the decision, but said it will never erase what happened.

‘It’s something that has impacted me, that will impact me all my life,’ she added.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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How a young girl was the sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 152 people (2024)
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