The child survivor of the plane that crashed into the Indian Ocean could not swim and did not have a life jacket, it emerged today. Bakari Baya, 14, is the only person to have been found alive. She survived by hanging on to a piece of debris for around 12 hours before being spotted in the shark-infested waters surrounded by oil and dead bodies. The teenager is now recovering in hospital after being plucked from the sea by rescuers. She was suffering from hypothermia and had cuts to her face and a fractured collar-bone, but is doing fine. ‘Her health is not in danger. She is very calm given the shock she suffered,’ said a surgeon at the Comoran city of Moroni where she is being treated.’ Her father described how she was ejected from the plane into the Indian Ocean. ‘She didn’t feel a thing. She found herself in water,’ Paris-based Kassim Bakari told French radio RTL after speaking to his daughter. ‘She could hear people talking, but in the middle of the night she couldn’t see a thing. She managed to hold on to a piece of something,’ said Bakari, whose wife was also on board the doomed flight and is presumed to be among the 152 victims. ‘She said she was ejected from the plane.’
Bahia, who lives in Marseille, escaped with just cuts to her face and a fractured collar-bone as the Yemenia Airways Airbus A310 tried to land at Moroni airport at the end of a four-stage flight from France. She had climbed on to a portion of wreckage – believed to be part of the plane’s cabin – but kept slipping back into the sea while clinging on to part of it with her hands. By the time a boat’s torch picked her out in the depths, she could hardly move. ‘We tried to throw her a life buoy to hang on to, but she wouldn’t take the buoy,’ said one of the rescuers. ‘I had to jump in to rescue her. She was trembling, trembling. We put four sheets around her, and gave her hot water and sugar. ‘We simply asked her name and her village. We took her to hospital urgently.’
Bakari was one of 142 passengers, including three babies, and 11 crew on board the Airbus 310, which ditched in the sea after a failed attempt to land in stormy weather. She was on the first day of her summer holidays after term ended at her school in Marseilles ’s 14th arrondissement last week.
Doctor Ada Mansour added: ‘She is with us in a recovery ward. She’s conscious and talking, but we need to warm her up as she is suffering from hypothermia. ‘We’re trying to get her back on her feet, but we’re not questioning her as we don’t want to tire her out.’