Mental Floss

Unbreakable: Sole Survivors of Tragic Plane Crashes

Kara Kovalchik
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The horrifying crash of Air France flight 447 was still all too fresh in everyone's mind when Yemenia Airways flight 626 plunged into the Indian Ocean. The causes behind both crashes are still being investigated, but one major difference between the two is that one person managed to survive the Yemenia disaster. Bahia Bakari, through some quirk of fate, has joined a very select group "“ those who have survived major airplane crashes.

The Miracle of Bahia Bakari

Yemenia flight 626 was an Airbus A310. Most of the 153 passengers aboard had flown in from Paris and Marseilles before switching planes in Sana'a en route to Comoros. Sometime in the early hours of June 30, the plane crashed into the Indian Ocean as it approached Hahaya Airport. Thirteen hours later, despite the high winds and 16 foot waves, a rescue boat from Madagascar responding to the distress signal sent from one of the plane's black boxes spotted a girl clinging to a piece of debris in the water. A sailor jumped into the ocean and placed a flotation device around 12-year-old Bahia Bakari, who was then pulled aboard to safety. Bakari, who was suffering from hypothermia as well as a broken collar bone and facial contusions, thus far only has sketchy memories of the crash: instructions being given to the passengers, a jolt "like electricity," a big noise, and then being in the water.

Juliane Koepcke and her Father's Advice

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Cecilia Cichan and Her Mother's Arms

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Vesna Vulovic and the Guinness Book Record

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Notes from an Airline Napkin

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Although experts tell us there are some ways in which you can increase your odds of surviving a plane crash (sit within five rows of an exit door, study the safety card, etc.), in many cases "“ like those noted above "“ it's simply an inexplicable luck of the draw. In instances of crashes where there was a sole survivor, 75% of those individuals were either a minor or a member of the flight crew. Yet according to the Airsafe.com Foundation, there is no logical explanation for that particular statistic. But speaking of statistics, even though 2.5 billion of us board a plane every year, we are still more likely to be involved in an automobile accident than a plane crash.

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