13 Years After Jet Crash, Sole Survivor May 'Know the Truth'

Bahia Bakari, who emerged from 2009 crash that killed 152, attends trial of Yemenia in France
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 10, 2022 9:02 AM CDT
Sole Survivor of Plane Crash May 'Finally Know the Truth'
Rescuers at Galawa Beach, 22 miles from Moroni, Comoros, search for survivors and wreckage from a crashed Yemenia Airbus 310 jet on July, 1, 2009.   (AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File)

The lone survivor of a 2009 passenger plane crash in the Indian Ocean that killed 152 people sat in the front row of a Paris courtroom Monday at the opening of the trial of the Yemeni airline that operated the flight. Yemen's main airline, Yemenia, has been charged with "manslaughter and unintentional injuries" in the case, reports the AP. It has denied responsibility. Bahia Bakari, who has called her survival "a miracle," sat in silence as the victims' names were read out at the start of the proceedings in a room heavy with emotion. At just 12 years old, Bakari clung to floating debris from the plane for 11 hours in the sea before being rescued.

Now 25, she recently told France 3 television she would attend the trial with both "apprehension" and "relief." The trial is needed to "finally know the truth," said Bakari, who lost her mother in the crash. The 2009 Yemenia flight left from Paris before picking up other passengers in Marseille. It made a stopover in Sanaa, Yemen, where 142 passengers and 11 crew members boarded another plane to continue to Moroni, the capital of the former French colony of Comoros, off the eastern coast of Africa. Most of the passengers onboard were from Comoros. During the landing in strong winds, the aging Airbus A310 crashed about 9 miles off the Comorian coast on June 30, 2009. French aviation investigators blamed pilot error.

Yemenia—which was ordered in civil proceedings by two French courts to pay more than $31.6 million to the victims' families in 2015—is being tried in Paris over Bakari's injuries and the deaths of 65 French citizens. The company is facing a fine of up to $237,000. There are 560 plaintiffs in the case. A witness, Fatouma Mmadi—president of the association SOS travel to Comoros, created a year before the crash to denounce the conditions of air travel from Sanaa to Moroni—said justice must be rendered and support offered to the families of the deceased. Said Larifou, a lawyer for the victims' families, denounced what he claimed were "garbage planes, flying coffins." The trial is a chance to "close this sad chapter," he said. (More Yemenia Air stories.)

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