A suspected stowaway was found dead on the roof of a London office block after plunging from a jumbo jet as it approached Heathrow Airport.
The man’s body was discovered on top of the offices of NotOnTheHighStreet.com, which is on a busy road in the south-west of the capital, yesterday morning.
Another stowaway survived the 8,000-mile flight from South Africa before being taken to hospital, where he is now fighting for his life.
A man’s body was discovered on top of the offices of NotOnTheHighStreet.com (pictured) on Kew Road in Richmond, south-west London. Police are investigating whether he was a stowaway on board a plane
Police forensics officers on the building’s roof yesterday as they investigate the man’s death
It is believed the two men sneaked on to flight BA0054 before it set off from Johannesburg airport on Wednesday evening.
The man who died is then thought to have hidden in the wheel recess during the airliner’s 11-hour five-minute overnight flight to London.
It is understood he fell out as the undercarriage came down on the plane’s approach to Heathrow. It is not known whether he died during the flight or from the fall.
The other man – believed to be 24 – survived and was rushed to hospital when the plane landed. He is said to be in a ‘critical’ condition.
Aviation expert David Learmount has suggested the man who survived may have got into the plane’s baggage or freight holds.
He said: ‘I don’t see how anybody can survive 11 hours at 35,000 feet and at less than -50C. I don’t think we can assume these two men were at the same part of the plane.
‘If someone is to survive as a stowaway then they have to get into an area of the plane that is pressurised and heated.’
Mr Learmount, the consulting editor of Flight International magazine, said the discovery of the stowaways also raises questions for airport security.
It is believed the man fell from the undercarriage of the British Airways jumbo jet as it came into land
Mr Learmount added: ‘If these two were neither airline nor airport staff and somehow managed to get on a flight then it becomes a serious security issue. Just how did they get (on the restricted) airside at the airport?
‘If either of the two were ground handlers or airline staff, then obviously the question of procedures at Johannesburg needs to be looked at.’
The plane would have been at an altitude of around 1,400ft when it passed over Richmond, flight data reveals.
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.
‘We are going to say prayers for the people concerned tonight.’
A lawyer, who lives on the road in Richmond where the latest body was found, said: ‘You can see the wheels come out as it’s very close to Heathrow terminal.
‘It’s quite dangerous. Our building insurance is higher than other buildings because we are right under the flight path. It’s quite tragic. People must be quite desperate to do that.’
Police say they are treating claims the man was a stowaway on the flight from Johannesburg as ‘one line of inquiry’.
A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Police were called at approximately 09:35 on Thursday 18 June to Kew Road, Richmond, to reports of a body discovered.
‘Officers and London Ambulance Service attended and found body of dead male on the roof of a business premises.’
Describing the case of the man who survived the flight, the police spokesman added: ‘The man, believed aged 24, was found in the undercarriage of the plane and was taken to hospital. His condition is now described as critical.
‘Whilst police officers at Heathrow believe they know his identity they await its confirmation before releasing any details of his nationality.’
British Airways has described the case as ‘very rare’.
A spokesman for NotOnTheHighStreet.com said there was ‘early indications are that the body may be that of an airline stowaway’, and added: ‘The incident is unrelated to the business or its team members.’
In August 2012, the body of a man was found in the landing gear of another Boeing 747 after it landed on a flight from Cape Town, South Africa.
The following month, the body of a man from Mozambique fell from a British Airways plane flying into Heathrow from Luanda, Angola.
In July 2013, a stowaway was found frozen to death in the undercarriage of another BA jet following a flight from Istanbul to Heathrow.