LONDON, UK – The body of a suspected stowaway has landed on a residential street in London after apparently plunging hundreds of metres from a Heathrow-bound plane as it prepared to land.
Police are investigating whether the victim, a male believed to be in his 30s, climbed into the aircraft in North Africa and hid among the landing gear before falling from the plane at the end of the flight.
One resident in the affluent London neighbourhood of Mortlake, about 20 kilometres from Heathrow Airport, reported hearing a “monstrous bang” before the man’s remains were discovered lying on the street early on Sunday morning.
Body parts were strewn over a 25-metre area, residents told The Daily Telegraph in London.
“I heard a monstrous bang. I thought someone had been hit by a car,” resident Annie Williams told the newspaper.
“There were two fellows going to church and they said there’s a dead body in the street.”
Another resident, Billy Watson, who lives opposite where the body fell in Portman Avenue, said he saw the body “all twisted up outside”.
“I heard someone outside and looked out of the window at about 8.30am and the first thing I saw was this body across the road. Bits of his body were everywhere, and the police were putting their cones by them,” he said.
The man is believed to have fallen when the aircraft opened its undercarriage and lowered the wheels ready for landing.
But an aviation expert said the man most likely would have been dead for the entire journey, after being crushed by the wheels being raised after take-off or freezing in temperatures of up to -40 degrees during the flight.
“The chances of survival for a stowaway are very slim, particularly in the recess of the landing gear if someone tried to stow away there,” Richard Taylor, from the Civil Aviation Authority, told the newspaper.
“More likely they would be crushed when the landing gear retracted.
“I don’t know of anyone who has survived being stowed away on a long-haul flight and it is surprising that so many people still try. When the landing gear comes down at the other end, a couple of miles from the runway and about 2000 feet [610 metres] in the air, if there is a person who had died they would fall out.”
The tragedy comes two weeks after the body of a stowaway was found in the landing gear recess of a British Airways plane arriving at Heathrow from Cape Town.