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Paris trial underway into 2009 Yemenia plane crash off coast of Comoros

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Divers return from a search mission for survivors of Yemenia Flight 626 in July 2009.
Divers return from a search mission for survivors of Yemenia Flight 626 in July 2009.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File

A trial is underway in Paris into the 2009 Yemenia plane crash which killed 152 people.

Sole survivor Bahia Bakari -- who was 12 years old at the time and lost her mother in the accident -- is expected to be present in court.

She has described her survival as a "miracle" and has expressed hope that she will "finally know the truth" about the plane crash.

Yemen's national airline has been charged with “manslaughter and unintentional injuries” over the 2009 crash and faces a fine of up to €225,000. It has denied responsibility.

The flight left from Paris before picking up more passengers in the southern French city of Marseille and heading towards Sanaa in Yemen.

After a stopover, 142 passengers and 11 crew members boarded an Airbus A310 towards Moroni, the capital of the Comoros islands.

But amid strong winds, the aircraft crashed in the Indian Ocean, around 15 kilometres off the Comorian coast on 30 June. Most of the passengers on board were from the African island nation.

After studying the plane’s black boxes, French aviation investigators ruled that the accident was not caused by a "technical problem or explosion" and blamed pilot error.

According to the BEA (Bureau of Investigations and Analysis), “the accident was due to inappropriate actions by the crew on the flight commands, which brought the plane into a stall”. 

AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File
12-year-old Bahia Bakari was the only survivor of the plane crash.AP Photo/Sayyid Azim, File

Bakari meanwhile clung to floating debris from the plane for 11 hours before she was rescued by a fishing boat

“We were told that we were going to land and there were jolts in the plane,” she told France 3 on the 10th anniversary of the tragedy.

“No one seemed worried. Before the crash, my mother just said to me ‘Did you fasten your seatbelt?’”

“I woke up in the water. It’s dark. There are cries, people calling for help, crying. I also called for help,” Bakari added.

Yemenia is being tried in Paris over Bakari’s injuries as well as the deaths of 65 French citizens.

In 2015, the company was ordered in civil proceedings by two French courts to pay more than €30 million euros to the victims’ families.

Three years later, a confidential agreement was signed between Yemenia and 835 beneficiaries, who had to wait several more years to receive compensation.

"Thirteen years is a long time: it is psychologically and morally exhausting and even physically," Said Assoumani, President of the victims' association, told AFP.

"But after thirteen years of waiting and impatience, finally the criminal trial is here."