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Frozen corpse from the sky narrowly missed sunbather

July 3, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

 

A Londoner, sunbathing in his garden last Sunday on a hot summer afternoon, narrowly missed being struck by a frozen corpse which tumbled out of an airliner and landed just a metre away from him.

Police were called to the South London suburb of Clapham after residents discovered the dead body in their back garden. It was later found to be that of a stowaway who fell from a Kenya Airways plane as it came in to land.

Kenya Airways confirmed that the body fell from the landing gear of a flight from Nairobi to Heathrow, the Guardian reported.

A next-door neighbour related how the dead man landed just a metre from a resident who was sunbathing in his garden.

“I heard a ‘whomp’,” the neighbour said. “I went upstairs to look out of a window.

“At first I thought it was a tramp asleep in the garden. He had all his clothes on and everything. I had a closer look and saw there was blood all over the walls of the garden … I realised immediately that he had fallen.”

A plane spotter who had followed the flight on an app saw the body fall, the report said. Police raced to the scene.

If the corpse had fallen two seconds earlier it would have landed on Clapham Common, thronged with hundreds of people enjoying a sunny Sunday.

According to shocked witnesses, the body was intact because it was frozen solid. The temperature at aircraft cruising altitude can fall below minus 50 C.

Nobody has yet been killed by a body falling from an aircraft, but such events happen more often than many people realise. The speed of a falling body, given the approach speed of an aircraft and the terminal velocity of a body in freefall, could approach 300 knots, exceeding 500 km/h.

 

Kenya Airways said in a statement that the aircraft had been inspected and that no damage had been reported.

“It is unfortunate that a person has lost his life by stowing aboard one of our aircraft and we express our condolences.”

Sadly, aircraft stowaways are nothing new, and almost all die. A few stowaways survive in wheel wells or cargo holds, if the flight is not long and the plane does not climb too high.

In 2012, a stowaway fell to his death from a British Airways flight from Angola, landing in southwest London.

About the same time, the body of a stowaway was found in the wheel well of a Russian passenger jet – and authorities admitted it had made several flights unnoticed. The man had probably frozen to death on the first flight, they said.

In another notable case, also in 2012, security agents contracted to Cape Town international airport, spotted a man scaling its perimeter fence and sprinting towards a British Airways plane preparing to take off for London.

Officers searched the airfield in vain and the plane took off. On landing, a corpse (presumably the same man) was found in the wheel well.

In October 1996, the body of a 19-year-old Indian man fell over 600 metres from a jet approaching Heathrow after a 10-hour flight from Delhi. He was already dead when he fell, a post-mortem revealed. His brother was with him in the wheel well and survived.

Only men (usually young) try such lethal stunts. Most of them are poor and trying to reach Europe or the USA.

Another desperate way of getting around the world free involves hiding in cargo. In 2000, Roberto Viza Egues hid himself in an Air France cargo container in Havana, Cuba and arrived in Paris, France next day in reasonably good condition. It didn’t do him much good – France deported him back to Cuba.

Written by Peter Needham

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