Sole survivor of 2009 plane crash that killed 152 others set to attend trial of Yemen’s main airline
At only 12 years old, Bahia Bakari clung to the floating debris of the plane for 11 hours in the Indian Ocean before being rescued. She called it “a miracle”. Now 25, she recently told France 3 that she would attend the trial with both “apprehension” and “relief”.
The trial is necessary to “finally know the truth”, said Bakari, who lost his mother in the accident.
The company, Yemenia, has been charged with “manslaughter and involuntary injury” in the case. He denied any responsibility.
The 2009 Yemenia flight departed from Paris before picking up other passengers in the southern French city of Marseille. It stopped over in Sanaa, Yemen, where 142 passengers and 11 crew members boarded another plane to continue the journey to Moroni, the capital of Comoros. While landing in high winds, the aging Airbus A310 crashed about 15 kilometers (9 miles) off the Comorian coast on June 30, 2009.
Yemenia is tried in Paris for the wounds of Bakari and the death of 65 French citizens. The company faces a fine of up to 225,000 euros ($237,000). There are 560 plaintiffs in the case.
Most of the passengers on board were from the Comoros.
In 2015, the company was ordered in civil proceedings by two French courts to pay more than 30 million euros (31.6 million dollars) to the families of the victims, who deplored the slowness of the procedure between France and the Comoros, a former colony that became independent. in 1975.
In 2018, a confidential agreement was signed between Yemenia and 835 beneficiaries, who had to wait several more years before being compensated.
Bakari said the crash came as a surprise.
“We were told we were going to land and there were jolts in the plane,” Bakari told France 3 during the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. “No one seemed worried. Before the accident, my mother was just like, ‘Did you put your seat belt on?'”
The plane then crashed into the ocean.
“I wake up in the water. It’s dark. There are screams, people calling for help, crying. I also called for help,” Bakari recalls.
After studying the plane’s black boxes, French aeronautical investigators from the BEA (Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses) discovered that pilot error was the cause of the crash. They said “the accident is not explained by a technical problem or by an explosion”.
The agency wrote that “the accident was due to inappropriate actions by the crew on the flight controls, which brought the aircraft into a stall.”
Investigators noted that “several other factors also contributed to the accident”, including the windy conditions at the airport “and the lack of training or briefing of the crew before operating the flight to Moroni”, a airport classified as having difficult landing conditions.
Yet the tragedy did not stop Bakari from flying again “several times”.
“I tell myself that there is little chance that it will happen to me a second time,” she told France 3.