A suspected stowaway who is believed to have hid in the gear compartment of a jumbo jet as it approached Heathrow Airport has fallen to his death in a west London suburb, while another is in hospital. The two men are believed to have been clinging to a British Airways flight from Johannesburg.
The victim was found on the roof of the four-storey headquarters of Notonthehighstreet.com on Kew Road, Richmond, at about 09:35 on Thursday. Police are treating his death as unexplained. The surviving man is said to be in a critical condition in a west London hospital.
In a statement, the Met Police said: “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.”
The surviving man, believed to be aged 24, was found in the undercarriage of the plane at about 08:20 and taken to a west London hospital. Officers believe they know his identity but are awaiting confirmation. The 8,000 miles (12,875km) route from South Africa to the UK normally takes about 11 hours. British Airways said in a statement about the incident: “We are working with the Metropolitan Police and the authorities in Johannesburg to establish the facts surrounding this very rare case.”
Notonthehighstreet.com said the incident was “unrelated to the business or its team members and added the company was “co-operating with the ongoing police enquiry”. There have been similar cases where stowaways have fallen to their deaths in west London after hiding in an aeroplane’s landing gear.
In September 2012, Jose Matada, 26, died after falling from the undercarriage of a flight from Angola to Heathrow on to a street in Mortlake, west London. An inquest heard he may have survived freezing temperatures of up to minus 60C (-76F) for most of the 12-hour flight, but it was assumed he was “dead or partially dead” by the time he fell to the ground.