She's a survivor! Singer Kechi Okwuchi is a fan-favorite contestant on Season 12 of America's Got Talent not only because of her incredible voice but because she has one of the most emotional backstories ever featured on the popular NBC competition series. When she was just 18 years old, Kechi was one of the only two people who miraculously survived the Sosoliso Airlines flight 1145 plane crash and she's still able to spread messages about hope after everything she's been through.
In 2005, Kechi was on the Nigerian flight with a friend traveling from Abuja to Port Harcourt. She recounted the harrowing tale of the crash-landing at Port Harcourt International Airport, which happened about 15 minutes before the plane was scheduled to land.
"I remember I was sitting in an aisle seat, and my close friend Toke was on the aisle seat to my right. The ensuing turbulence was getting very frequent, but I didn’t think too much of it until someone from the back shouted ‘Is this plane trying to land?’" she wrote in a blog post that was published back in 2012. "I couldn’t see out the window from my seat, but now I think about it that was probably for the best. Everything was so surreal in that moment. I turned to Toke and we held hands, and I was like ‘Maybe we should pray?’ Before we could even start, there was this sudden shrill sound ringing in my ears, and next thing I knew, I was waking up in Milpark Hospital, South Africa. To this day I don’t remember the actual impact of the crash."
The aircraft was engulfed in flames and initially, officials did not think any of the passengers or crew members survived the crash, CNN reported at the time. But Kechi was extremely injured — she partially lost her vision and more than 65% of her body was burned in the wreckage.
In 2007, her family moved to Texas so that she could be treated Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Galveston and since then, she's had more than 100 surgeries in order to help her heal. But she refused to give up and she said music was the only thing that helped her cope in the years after the plane crash.
Throughout her time on the show, Kechi used music to move the AGT fans and judges to tears with her powerful voice. During her first performance after Hurricane Harvey, she had a message for all of her fellow Texans who are enduring the deadly floods that have been ravaging the state over the past week. "I want to say that I pray that my performance gave them something positive to see," she said.