The plane was already on its way to land and the passengers were buckled, said the then twelve-year-old Frenchwoman Bahia Bakari on Monday in Paris. “I felt turbulence, I thought that’s normal,” said the student. “Suddenly I felt an electric shock that paralyzed my whole body and pulled me up, I had no way of reacting.” After that she only regained consciousness in the water and clung to a piece of wreckage. “I heard calls for help in the water, but I was all alone.” After ten hours she was rescued.
Shortly before landing in the capital Moroni, the Airbus crashed into the Indian Ocean in bad weather. 65 of the victims were French, mostly from the Comoros. They had flown from Paris and Marseille to the Yemeni capital of Sana’a and boarded the plane to the East African island state of Comoros. The company Yemenia Airways now has to answer for negligent homicide and negligent bodily harm before the criminal court in Paris. Bakari complained that no airline representative appeared in court. “I would have wanted them to listen to us, to listen to me, to make me feel respected.”
In the water she had every hope that her mother, with whom she was traveling, survived the accident. She only found out about her death later in the hospital. Life afterwards with her father and three younger siblings was not easy. “I knew the siblings needed the mother, but I couldn’t replace them.” Overwhelmed by emotions, several of the relatives left the courtroom. There are 560 joint plaintiffs in the process.
The French civil aviation authority BEA later saw evidence of pilot error as the cause. Another question is whether the training was sufficient and whether defects in the runway lighting played a role. If the airline is proven to have failed, it faces a fine of up to 225,000 euros.