Bahia Bakari, 25, takes the stand shortly after 10 a.m. She smiles as she gives her identity, before launching into a calm and precise account of the night of the accident which she miraculously survived, almost thirteen years ago.
On June 29, 2009, she was 12 years old and left with her mother, from Roissy airport, to attend her grandfather’s wedding in the Comoros. The plane made a stopover in Marseille, then the passengers changed planes in Sanaa, in Yemen.
This “second plane”, an A310, was “smaller, there were flies on board and a strong smell of toilet”, she describes. But during this “night flight”, “it happened very normally”, until the landing.
As we approach Moroni, the capital of the Comoros, “safety advice was announced, the lights to fasten seat belts came on”.
“I feel the plane starting to descend and I’m starting to feel turbulence, but no one reacts more than that, so I tell myself that it must be normal,” she says.
Then, “I feel like an electric shock all over my body,” she says. “I have a black hole between when I was sitting on the plane and when I find myself in the water”.
– “Taste of kerosene” –
Tight on the benches of the courtroom, more than a hundred civil parties listen to him in silence.
In the waves, “in front of me, I see three debris, I grab the biggest one trying to climb on it but I can’t,” continues Bahia Bakari, dark hair gathered in a bun, shirt and pants whites.
“I become aware of voices calling for help in Comorian, I scream but a little hopeless, because I realize that there is only the sea around me and that I see no one”.
“I end up falling asleep clinging to the wreckage of the plane. When I wake up, the day dawns, I no longer hear anyone”. In the distance, she sees the coast, tries to “reach it” but “the sea is very rough”, she says, also describing “the taste of kerosene” she had in her mouth.
“I did not see how I was going to get out of it. (…) I saw a plane pass above me but I was not sure that it had spotted me. I found the weather very , very long”.
It is the thought of “her mother”, “very protective”, which makes her hold. She will finally be rescued by a boat after ten hours in the water.
She then convinced herself that “everyone has arrived” and that she is “the only one who fell” from the plane. It is “a psychologist, at the hospital”, who announces to him that she is “the only one who has been found”.
Repatriated to France, she remained hospitalized for about twenty days to treat fractures in the left eye, collarbone, pelvis, as well as burns to the feet and a pneumothorax.
“What was very complicated for me was to manage the mourning of my mother, I was very close to her”. Her voice breaks for the first time, she is overwhelmed with tears.
“Thank you for your courage and your smile, in this very difficult exercise”, encourages the president of the court, Sylvie Daunis, before asking her questions.
Psychologically accompanied to the hospital, the young woman has not been followed since, confiding in her father. She also evokes the “Comorian community, very united”.
Since the start of the trial, “there are a lot of emotions at the same time. It’s a real relief (but) it’s very complicated because it brings back memories”, “flashbacks”.
Experts concluded that the accident was due to a series of pilot errors, ruling out the hypothesis of a missile, a technical failure of the plane and lightning.
Since the opening of the trial, the defendants’ bench has been empty: no representative of the company is present because of the war raging in Yemen, according to the defense.
Asked about this absence by a family lawyer, Bahia Bakari regrets it: “I would have liked them to listen to us” and “to have an apology”.