The body of a man who had fallen thousands of feet after apparently stowing away in an aeroplane landed in a residential street.Experts said that such incidents were rare, but it was impossible for a stowaway to survive a long-haul flight and bodies had been known to fall when the wheels come down before landing.
Annie Williams, 47, a resident, said: “I heard a monstrous bang. I thought someone had been hit by a car. There were two fellows going to church and they said there’s a dead body in the street.”
Residents also spoke of body parts being strewn over a 30-yard area and pools of blood.
Experts believe the man had hidden in the landing gear somewhere in North Africa, but fell as the aircraft prepared to land at Heathrow and the pilot put the wheels down early on Sunday.
Billy Watson, 26, who lives opposite where the body fell, in Portman Avenue, Mortlake, south-west London said: “I saw the body all twisted up outside.
“I heard someone outside and looked out of the window at about half past eight and the first thing I saw was this body across the road. Bits of his body were everywhere, and the police were putting their cones by them.”
A 58-year-old resident, which is on the flight path around 10 miles from the airport, said: “No one saw him fall because it was early on a Sunday morning.
“There was a lot of CID and police and they established the fact he was probably a stowaway.”
He added: “I just felt sorry for the guy. Whatever he was trying to escape from must have been horrendous to do that.”
Richard Taylor, from the Civil Aviation Authority, said the man was likely to have been dead for the entire journey because he would either have been crushed by the wheels being raised after take-off or frozen in temperatures of up to -40F (-40C ).
He said: “The chances of survival for a stowaway are very slim, particularly in the recess of the landing gear if someone tried to stowaway there.
“More likely they would be crushed when the landing gear retracted.”
He added that, even if someone had survived take-off, without specialist Arctic clothing there was no chance of surviving the low temperatures.
He said: “I don’t know of anyone who has survived being stowed away on a long-haul flight and it is surprising that so many people still try. When the landing gear comes down at the other end, a couple of miles from the runway and about 2,000ft in the air, if there is a person who had died they would fall out.”
In 2001, a man fell from a British Airways Boeing 777 which was heading toward Heathrow and landed in a Homebase car park in Richmond.
Last month a stowaway was found dead inside a British Airways jumbo jet at Heathrow after a man climbed into the plane at Cape Town.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said “The death is currently being treated as unexplained. A post mortem examination will be held in due course.”
She added that the theory that he might have been a stowaway who fell from a plane was “one line of inquiry”.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.