The auditions for season 12 of the popular reality TV show “America’s Got Talent” will not be quickly forgotten as it featured an amazing voice who wowed the judges with her singing and inspired many with her remarkable story.
Nigerian-born Kechi Okwuchi got a standing ovation from the judges (including Simon Cowell) for her soulful rendition of Ed Sheeran‘s “Thinking out Loud.” Before blowing the audience away with her voice, Kechi took a moment to share with them how her love for singing and deep appreciation for music was formed.
“I was in a plane crash when I was about 16 years old back in Nigeria. It took the lives of 107 out of 109 passengers, and I was one of the two survivors,” Okwuchi said, adding, “Lying down in the hospital bed with bandages from head to foot, music was my escape and that’s why it means so much to me.”
In 2005, Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 carried 109 people from Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, before crashing and bursting into flames while trying to land at Port Harcourt International Airport. All seven crew members and 101 of the 103 passengers died in the crash or from injuries sustained.
Kechi, then a 16-year-old secondary school student, was one of the two surviving passengers, with rescuers managing to pull her out of the burning plane.
She suffered extensive burns.
Since then, Kechi has received treatment at Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, and at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, United States. She has endured more than 100 surgeries, including painful skin grafts.
Yet through it all, she has found solace in her love for music and maintained her determination to reach for greatness.
In 2015, Kechi graduated from the University of Thomas Houston, Texas with a first-class degree in Economics. She was also inducted in to six academic honor societies, earned the award for the “Most Outstanding Student,” and was accepted in to the graduate school for her MBA. In addition, she was chosen to give the commencement address at her graduation.
Kechi still carries visible scars from the burns she suffered in the ill-fated crash, but she has not let it hold her back from living her life to the fullest, realizing her potential, and inspiring thousands more with her amazing story of survival and victory.