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How did a single teenage girl survive the Yemenia crash?

Since 1970, 12 plane crashes have yielded only one survivor. Many factors are involved – and age might be one of them.

Kassim Bakari, the father of Bahia Bakari, the only known survivor of the crash of a Yemenia Airbus A 310 jet, answers reporters outside his apartment building in Corbeil Essone, south of Paris, Wednesday. Kassim Bakari's wife is thought to have been killed in the crash.

Remy de la Mauviniere/AP

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Rescue efforts are continuing along with the search for the flight-data recorders from the Yemenia Airlines plane that crashed early Tuesday morning on its way from the capital Sanaa to the Comoros Islands.

French officials now say earlier reports that a "pinger" signal from the black boxes was located were inaccurate. The signal that was detected came from a distress beacon.

In the meantime, the recovery of a sole survivor – reported to be 12-year-old Baya Bakari – from Tuesday's early-morning crash has raised the perplexing question of how one person could live through a catastrophic accident in which everyone else perishes.

The answers are not simple, aviation analysts say. They involve the complex physical dynamics in each individual accident. Since 1970, there have been 12 cases in which there has been only one survivor, according to a study by Airsafe.com. Two-thirds of them were either flight crew members or children.

"This might be the 13th case," says Todd Curtis, an aviation expert and founder of Airsafe.com, who conducted the study. "It becomes a question of what were the specific dynamics in that specific area that allowed that person to survive. There are so few data points and no real in-depth research about this kind of crash, so it's really hard to say exactly why."

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