British Airways Stowaway Falls to Ground as Plane Nears Heathrow

A body found on a London roof may have fallen from a British Airways plane as it came in to land at Heathrow Airport following a flight from South Africa.

“We are working with the Metropolitan Police and the authorities in Johannesburg to establish the facts,” the carrier said Friday. While it said such incidents are “rare,” bodies have fallen from the sky before on the approach to Heathrow at the point where aircraft lower their wheels.

The man’s body was discovered at 9:35 a.m. on Thursday morning on the roof of a building in Richmond, a suburb on the flightpath to Europe’s busiest airport. The Metropolitan police said in a statement on their website that there is, as yet, no link to the discovery of a stowaway on a flight into the hub from Johannesburg, though it is one line of inquiry.

The second man, thought to be around 24 years old, was found at 8:30 a.m. yesterday in the undercarriage of the plane. He remains in hospital in critical condition, the police said.

Climbing up an aircraft’s landing gear is the most common way of stowing away on a plane, though it’s rare to survive as wheel bays are unpressurized and unheated, resulting in oxygen depletion and hypothermia that usually proves fatal once a flight reaches cruising altitude. Frozen bodies then fall to the ground once the undercarriage is lowered again.

In rare cases medical experts say the body’s heart rate can slow enough to maintain life, albeit in a semi-comatose state.

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