A stowaway fell to his death while clinging to the undercarriage of a jet as it flew over London.
The victim, who has not yet been identified, plunged from the undercarriage of the British Airways 747 on to the HQ of the clothes business notonthehighstreet.com in Richmond.
According to the Sun, he is believed to have clung on to the aircraft’s wheels as the plane came in to land at Heathrow Airport after travelling 8,000 miles from Johannesburg in South Africa.
Police found the man, who is believed to be aged between 25 and 30, lying on his back on top of an electrical box on the building’s roof at about 9.30am on Thursday.
A second stowaway, also aged between 25 and 30 years, is now fighting for his life at a west London Hospital following the 11 hour flight.
The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are investigating the incident and enquiries are on going to establish the man’s identity.
A spokesman from notonthehighstreet.com, said: Police were called at approximately 09:35hrs on Thursday 18 June to 63 Kew Road, Richmond, to reports of a body discovered.
‘Officers and the London Ambulance Service attended and found the body of male on the roof of the premises.
‘The death is currently being treated as unexplained but early indications are that the body may be that of an airline stowaway. A post-mortem examination will be held in due course.
‘Enquiries are ongoing to establish the male’s identity.
‘notonthehighstreet.com can confirm that the incident is unrelated to the business or its team members and are co-operating with the ongoing Police enquiry.’
How did the man’s companion survive the flight?
An aviation expert says it is ‘absolutely remarkable’ anyone could survive 11 hours in an aeroplane’s hold.
Former pilot, John Hutchinson, who is a member of the British Association of Aviation Experts (BAAE), said: ‘It would be a horrendous environment to be in.
‘There would be no heat and the air temperature could fall as low as -50 degrees.
‘It is absolutely remarkable that someone could survive. They must have been extremely physically fit.’
He said it is not just the temperature that would have made the hold horrific.
He said: ‘The process of the wheels coming down from the undercarriage would be terrifying.
‘These are massive chunks of metal and hydraulic machinery. It would be horrendous.
‘It is incredible to think how desperate these people must have been to do something like that.’
It is not clear whether the undercarriage of the plane was pressurised or part pressurised.
However Mr Hutchinson explained that people will generally become ill within minutes of a cabin losing pressure.
He said: ‘At 35,000 feet you would have maybe five minutes before you would begin to feel ill.
‘Your brain would cease to function properly due to lack of oxygen and you would quickly lose consciousness’
Mr Hutchinson said people tend to become ill at around 16,000 feet but said it all depends on a person’s fitness.
He said: ‘People travel to places like Machu Picchu which is about 8,000 feet above sea level.
‘However at about 16,000 feet you will suffer altitude sickness and at 20,000 feet you will eventually die from lack of oxygen.’
British Airways described the incident as a ‘very rare case’.
A spokesman said: ‘We are working with the Metropolitan Police and the authorities in Johannesburg to establish the facts surrounding this very rare case.’
Reverend Neil Summers, from the St John the Divine of Richmond church opposite where the body was found, said he was ‘shocked’ and would lead prayers for the dead man.
He said: ‘It’s shocking, you do not expect these things to happen on your patch really.
‘In one sense it’s not totally surprising as it’s happened before.
‘It’s very shocking when it’s so close to you.’We are going to say prayers for the people concerned tonight.’
Has this happened before?
In September 2012 a man plunged to his death over a surburban street in Mortlake while hiding in landing gear.
The man, who was in his thirties, was trying to sneak in to the country on a plane from south Africa.
In July 2013 a stowaway from Istanbul reportedly froze to death after hiding in the undercarriage of a passenger jet which landed at Heathrow.