SA stowaway dies

2012-08-24 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The body of a man last seen climbing the perimeter fence at Cape Town airport was found aboard a British Airways plane at Heathrow Airport yesterday.

At the time of going to press, neither the man’s identity nor where he was found on the plane was available.

The incident is being investigated by the Airports Company SA (Acsa) and British Airways.

Acsa said in a statement that security personnel saw the man climb the fence at about 8.40 pm on Wednesday.

“A search was immediately begun. A security guard chased the man as he ran towards a BA plane,” said spokesperson Deidre Davids.

“The plane was ready to depart and the guard could not approach it, because of safety regulations.

“The airfield was searched, but the man could not be found.

“Because it was dark and because there was uncertainty over the man’s disappearance, another full-scale search was undertaken. He was not found,” said Davids.

“It is a very sad day for all of us at the airport, because someone is dead.”

Davids warned the public that the airfield was dangerous for those not used to it.

“When you do something like that, you not only endanger your own life, but those of people who work at the airport as well,” she said.

BA spokesperson Stephen Forbes said the company was investigating thoroughly and co-operating with the British police.

“It is something that happens very rarely. It is very sad and we are thinking of the man’s family,” he said.

Air expert Linden Burns said that if the man climbed into the plane’s wheel bay (which is not yet certain), he could have been crushed when the wheels retracted.

If that did not happen, he would have suffocated as the plane climbed higher and the oxygen in the air thinned, and would have died of exposure.

“It was a very stupid thing to do,” he said.

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