A Stowaway Clung To The Undercarriage Of A Plane For 10 Hours

Indrani Sengupta
The man smuggled himself onto the plane in Johannesburg, and survived (barely) the 8000 mile flight to west London. Another possible stowaway did not fare as well.

A stowaway on a British Airways flight survived a 10-hour flight spent clinging to the undercarriage of the plane.

The man was found unconscious in the undercarriage after having endured freezing temperatures over 8,000 miles, the length of the flight from Johannesburg to London, as well as a lack of oxygen due to the high altitude. He is now in critical condition.

An hour after the stowaway was rescued and taken to hospital, the body of a dead man was found on the roof of a London office building. Although there is yet no evidence to connect the two cases, police fear that the dead man was another stowaway on the same flight. If so, he would have fallen at altitude of 1,400 feet, enough to kill him if he had not perished already from exposure to sub-zero temperatures.

Some news providers have reported that the man found was definitively a fallen stowaway:

However, the Metropolitan police have issued the following statement:

"At this time, there is no evidence to link the death to the discovery of a stowaway in the undercarriage of a plane at Heathrow airport; however, this is one line of enquiry into identifying the deceased and the circumstances of his death."

This is not the first time such an event has taken place. There have been previous cases of stowaways smuggling onto London-bound planes and expiring from the cold or from a fall. In 2012, Jose Matada fell to his death from the undercarriage of a plane travelling from Angola to Heathrow. In 2013, Hikmet Komur froze to death in 2013 on an Istanbul to London flight.

David Learmount, an aviation expert, believes that the survivor in this most recent case would have perished if he had not been able to get into the baggage hold section of the aircraft, away from the whell well (the compartment into which the plane’s wheels retract). This raises concerns about airport and airline security.

It is currently unknown why the two men smuggled themselves onto this plane, whether they had criminal intentions, or whether they were merely would-be immigrants driven to desperation.

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