Stowaway falls from aircraft over London

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 01:00

AN AFRICAN man trying to evade the UK’s immigration laws fell thousands of feet on Sunday morning in London when the aircraft in which he was hiding lowered its landing gear as it prepared to arrive at Heathrow.

The man, who is believed to have been in his 30s, landed on a car shortly before 8am in Portman Avenue, East Sheen, about 10 miles from Heathrow, with one resident reporting a loud noise as she opened curtains.

“I heard a monstrous bang. I thought someone had been hit by a car. There were two fellows going to church and they said there’s a dead body in the street,” Annie Williams told her local newspaper, the Richmond and Twickenham Times.

Police urged residents to stay indoors to avoid witnessing the scene, although many offered graphic testimony – body parts had been spread over more than 20 metres.

Aviation experts believe the man was already dead before he fell. “The temperatures in the undercarriage reach -40C at high altitudes, so the person has basically frozen to death,” Richard Taylor of the Civil Aviation Authority said.

“There is virtually no chance of someone surviving that. Very often people get crushed to death by the landing gear when it retracts. It is surprising that people still do it. I guess they don’t realise they have very little chance of surviving,” Mr Taylor added.

In 2001 another intending illegal immigrant fell from a British Airways Boeing 777 as it prepared to land at Heathrow, landing in a car park just a mile from the scene of Sunday’s incident.

Last month ground crew discovered the body of another stowaway huddled in the landing gear bay of another British Airways aircraft after it had arrived from Cape Town.