A British Airways flight flew from Johannesburg, South Africa to London — a trip of 8,000 miles – carrying two desperate travelers on Thursday.
One stowaway was found unconscious in the plane’s undercarriage, the other fell 1,400 feet from the sky onto a London office building.
Reports indicate the stowaway who survived was found at Heathrow before the body of the second was discovered, “lying on his back with his legs in the air on the building’s roof, on top of an electrical box,” The Independent reported.
The surviving stowaway, between 25 and 30 years old, is in serious condition in the hospital, while police try to unravel the circumstances that led to the death of the other, the Guardian reports. Investigators will conduct an autopsy on the deceased man and are working to identify him; they may know the identity of the survivor, but haven’t released his name yet.
Right now, the two stowaways seem to be an incredible coincidence, as there is currently no evidence linking them together, BBC added. However, that both managed to climb into the plane’s undercarriage at Johannesburg’s Tambo International is a serious security breach. An airport spokesman said one stowaway — forget two of them — is “very rare” in South Africa.
The building onto which the second stowaway fell to his death was right under the flight path, in southwest London, minutes from Heathrow. Neighbors believe that the men were desperate emigrants, just trying to get to England for a better life.
Churchgoers across the street will pray for the man Friday; their reverend, Neil Summers, was shaken up by his death.
“It’s very shocking when something like this happens on your doorstep. Coupled with all the migrants coming across the high seas into Europe from north Africa, it’s just another example of how desperate people are to reach this country to try to find a better life for themselves.”
Police haven’t confirmed whether or not either stowaway braved the 8,000-mile journey for this reason. And this isn’t the first time a stowaway has fallen to his death in west London. Often, they hide in landing gear, and most are killed by the sub-zero temperatures and low oxygen, The Telegraph added.
The man who fell to his death is believed to have clung to the plane’s wheel, but the other may have survived simply because he found a safer spot — and that’s not encouraging from a security perspective. Investigators think that stowaway breached the baggage hold.
Back in the west London neighborhood where the unknown man fell to his death, business owner Hadt Khoshkbar expressed grief over the strange tragedy. He can empathize with the desperation — he immigrated from Iran in 1976.
“How did they get inside the plane? Someone must be incredibly desperate to do it. You can see people coming every day by boat from north Africa. I came here a long time ago, but I do feel sympathy for these people.”
[Photo Courtesy Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]