PARIS – The 14-year-old girl believed to be the lone survivor of a jetliner crash in the Indian Ocean was thrown from the plane and into the waves, where she heard voices but saw no one in the darkness, her father told a French radio station Wednesday.
“She is a very, very shy girl. I never thought she would survive like that,” Kassim Bakari said of his daughter, Bahia, in an interview with French RTL radio from his suburban Paris home. “When I had her on the phone, I asked her what happened and she said, ‘Daddy, I don’t know what happened, but the plane fell into the water and I found myself in the water … surrounded by darkness. I could not see anyone.’ ”
Bahia, who floated with debris for about 12 hours in the cold sea, was in stable condition at a hospital in Moroni, the capital of Comoros, the island nation the Yemenia airways Airbus 310 was approaching Tuesday with 153 people aboard when it went down.
The Yemeni government said preliminary indications were that bad weather might have caused the Airbus 310 to plunge into the sea as it approached the airport in Moroni.
European aviation officials have said that the plane operated by Yemenia, Yemen’s national carrier, was barred from French airports two years ago following “irregularities” discovered in a safety review.
Bahia Bakari has a broken collarbone and cuts on her face, and, according to a rescue worker who jumped into the sea to save her, she could barely swim and was too weak to hold onto a buoy thrown to her.
“She signaled to a passing boat, and it was able to pick her up,” French Cooperation Secretary Alain Joyandet told France Info radio.
Bakari boarded the doomed plane with her mother; the two were traveling to Comoros to visit relatives. Her mother, like the rest of the passengers, is presumed dead, but Bahia doesn’t know this from her hospital bed.
“When I spoke to her she was asking for her mother,” Kassim Bakari said. “They told her she was in a room next door, so as not to traumatize her. But it’s not true. I don’t know who is going to tell her. … I can’t tell her that.”