Monday, September 10, 2012

Stowaway man falls from plane's landing gear

A man is believed to have fallen to his death from thousands of feet in the sky when a British Airways plane he was hiding in dropped its landing gear on approach to Heathrow Airtport.

Police believe the man is in his 30s and of North African descent. He could have fallen from about 2000 feet in the sky, landing on a car in a plush London suburb under the Heathrow flight path.

Aviation experts say he was probably dead before he hit the ground either because he had been crushed by the retracting landing gear shortly after the plane took off or because of the extreme cold at high altitude.

It is thought the man’s body dropped from the aircraft undercarriage as the plane came in to land.

Residents on the tree-lined road in Mortlake, on the south bank of the Thames less than ten miles from the airport, yesterday spoke of their shock on finding the body after hearing a loud bang.

Billy Watson, 26, a security guard who lives opposite where the man fell, said he saw the body ‘all twisted up’.

He said: ‘It is unbelievable. The first thing I thought when I saw the body was that it must have fallen from quite a height.

‘You could tell by the way his body was mangled. There was a big pool of blood coming from his head.’

Last night, others said they were amazed blood could still be seen on the family street. Catherine Lambert, a mother of two, said it was ‘disgusting’ that the scene had not been cleared up.

‘It’s shocking you can still see splatters of blood,’ she said, adding that the body was left uncovered by police for ‘a good few hours’ after it was found.

She said: ‘We just wonder what made him get in that plane and want so badly to escape.’ Another resident, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘No one saw him fall because it was early on a Sunday morning.

‘Whatever he was trying to escape from must have been horrendous to make him do that.’

Richard Taylor, of the Civil Aviation Authority, said a stowaway in an aircraft undercarriage was unlikely to have survived as he would either be crushed by the wheels after take-off or freeze in temperatures as low as minus 40C (minus 40F).

He said: ‘The chances of survival for a stowaway are very slim, particularly in the recess of the landing gear.

‘I don’t know of anyone who has survived being stowed away on a long-haul flight.

‘When the landing gear comes down at the other end, a few miles from the runway and about 2,000ft in the air, if there is a person who had died they would fall out.’

Police said they were investigating whether the body was that of a stowaway.’

The discovery comes just over a fortnight after the body of a stowaway was found in the landing gear recess of a BA plane arriving at Heathrow from Cape Town.

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