London police investigating death in airline stowaways case

One man was discovered inside a British Airways flight from South Africa after it landed Thursday. Another man was found dead in a nearby neighborhood on the flight path for London's Heathrow Airport.

Suzanne Plunkett/REUTERS
A Boeing 747 airliner flies over the headquarters of online retailer as it approaches Heathrow airport over Richmond in west London, June 19, 2015.

A man is in critical condition in a London hospital after he was found stowed away in the undercarriage of a plane that had just completed a 10-hour flight, and police are investigating whether a man found dead on a west London rooftop had fallen from the same plane.

Authorities at Heathrow Airport found the man in the undercarriage of a British Airways plane after it landed Thursday morning on a flight from Johannesburg. Police say they believe they know his identity and that he is 24 but they are awaiting confirmation before they release any details.

While there is no evidence to link the two cases, police say they are looking into whether there is a connection to the body found an hour later in the west London community of Richmond, which is below the flight path.

British Airways said it is working with police in London and Johannesburg to establish the facts in this "rare case."

Experts believe roughly three-quarters of stowaways do not survive if they hide on a plane's undercarriage because of the extreme cold and lack of oxygen they experience as the plane reaches cruising altitude.

Aviation expert Chris Yates described the latest situation as unusual because of enhanced security measures at airports meant to deter terror and other attacks. However, he noted that the stowaways who survive have tended to be young people.

The Rev. Neil Summers, from the St. John the Divine of Richmond church across the way from where the body was found, said he would lead prayers for the dead man.

"In one sense it's not totally surprising as it's happened before," he said. "It's very shocking when it's so close to you. We are going to say prayers for the people concerned tonight."

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