2nd stowaway at JFK

Body found in jet's wheel compartment


A stowaway was found dead last night in the wheel well of a passenger jet that had flown to Kennedy Airport from London, authorities said.
It was the second time in a week that a dead stowaway turned up at the airport, raising further concerns about airline security while the nation is in a heightened state of alert because of terror threats.

Port Authority spokesman Tony Ciavolella said British Airways officials notified PA cops after the man's body was discovered during a maintenance inspection of Flight 177 (a Boeing 747-400) about 6:30 p.m.

"It's really scary to know that people can just walk up to a plane that way in other countries," a law enforcement source said. "Obviously, the biggest threat is somebody who gets on a plane as a suicide

 bomber. He might not make it, but that stuff can go off, and where is the wheel well? Between the fuel tanks."

British Airways spokeswoman Honor Verrier said, "There did appear to be a body of an apparent stowaway."

Flight 177 originated in London, she said.

The law enforcement source said authorities were investigating whether the man had slipped aboard in Nigeria, where the plane had taken off Dec. 24. The source said the stowaway, who was black and in his 30s, was carrying Nigerian currency and wearing a wrist watch that stopped at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Since last Wednesday, the plane has also made stops in Cairo, London, Washington and New York, the source said. He noted it was virtually impossible for anyone to survive a trip in a wheel well because of the freezing temperatures and oxygen deprivation at high altitudes.

The FBI has launched an investigation into the case.

Last week, a stowaway was found dead in the wheel well of an American Airlines jet at Kennedy.

The unidentified 25-year-old man was found on Christmas Eve by maintenance workers inspecting an aircraft that had arrived from Montego Bay, Jamaica.



It's a common story, often these incidents don't make the news. They occur quite frequently at international airports.
Here's some earlier threads on this sad subject:  




Stowaway's body found in plane
15 Apr 02  |  England
Desperate cargo
22 Mar 01  |  UK
Stowaway dies over the Atlantic
21 Feb 01  |  Americas

    If the following is correct then either someone managed to get past security at Heathrow or they were stuck there from an earlier sector
31/12/2003 - 10:32:42 am
The body of a man was found in the wheel compartment of a British Airways plane that had flown from Heathrow Airport, London to John F Kennedy International Airport, New York, authorities said today.
Police found the body of a man believed to be in his 30s on BA Flight 177 after the plane landed at 6:30pm last night, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The Queens District Attorney, federal Transportation Security Administration, FBI and city Medical Examiner's office were investigating.
Last week, the body of a man in his 20s was found in the wheel well of an American Airlines Flight 1190 to Kennedy Airport from Montego Bay, Jamaica.
    The unfortunate stowaway got on the aircraft at Cairo and flew with the aircraft on two sectors before being discovered.
    Maybe a naive question, but why can't the ground crew do a quick scan of all wheel wells just before push back? I would think that, in today's climate, it is a no brainer. If someone can get in so easily, what is to prevent them from bringing an altitude triggered device with them?
    A wheel well inspection on the ramp prior to departure does not assure that someone can't get aboard later.
Desperate people who climb into wheel wells usually climb airport perimeter fences and position themselves at night beside the taxiways. Four years ago two young males had crowded into the nose wheel well of a taxiing DC8 en route CLO-MIA. Both had received fatal injuries during incomplete nose gear retraction and subsequent nose gear collapse after an air turn back to CLO.
    Most (reconstructed) accounts of these 'draughty class' fliers have concluded they boarded the aircraft from the holding point.

Cameras would seem to be the most cost-effective safeguard.
Do Jet Stowaways Ever Survive?
The dangers of traveling beneath business class.
By Brendan I. Koerner
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2003, at 11:07 AM PT


Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty

For the second time in a week, police at New York's Kennedy Airport have discovered a body in the wheel well of an arriving jet. What are the hazards of traveling in an airplane's wheel well, and do any of these desperate stowaways ever survive?

The odds of survival, always slim at best, decrease in proportion to the duration and altitude of the flight. Few stowaways are equipped to handle the frigid temperatures, which can dip below minus-50 degrees Fahrenheit on some flights. The bodies of stowaways usually show signs of severe frostbite and the longer the flight, the more likely that the illicit passenger will succumb to the elements.

Others perish due to asphyxiation, as the air at high altitudes lacks sufficient oxygen and the wheel wells are unpressurized. Think of how mountaineers scaling Mount Everest are forced to carry oxygen tanks, and that peak measures shy of 30,000 feetójust below the altitude that many planes reach. The chilliness and the oxygen deprivation become more severe the higher a plane climbs, so stowaways on high-flying transoceanic voyages face the worst odds.

A third danger is the likelihood of tumbling from the wheel well prior to arrival. Landing gear is typically deployed at an altitude of around 1,500 feet, and the stowaways are given

little warning. Unless they're holding onto something inside the compartment, a fatal plunge is difficult to avoid. Blackouts caused by oxygen deprivation are common, so many stowaways are likely unconscious at the crucial moment.

Few hopeful refugees attempt wheel-well arrivals every year. In 2000, for example, the FAA counted 13 such stowaways, three of whom survived. In 2001, six tried to enter the United States in such a fashion, with no survivors. In 2002, five perished and one survived. (The wheel-well survival rate since 1947 is 20.3 percent.) The death estimates may be low, as some bodies may have tumbled out into water or remote areas, never to be recovered.

There is, however, the occasional miracle case, none more fantastic than the tale of Fidel Maruhi. The Tahitian native lived through a 7-and-a-half-hour flight from Papeete to Los Angeles. When he was discovered, Maruhi's body temperature was just 79 degrees, about 6 degrees colder than what's usually considered fatal. Repatriated to Tahiti after his feat, Maruhi later said that he remembers nothing of the trip, having blacked out just after takeoff.

Last December, a Cuban refugee named Victor Alvarez Molina made it to Montreal in the wheel well of a DC-10, enduring four hours in temperatures that dropped to minus-40 F. His saving grace was a leak in a compartment pipe, which seeped out warm air. The pipe also provided him a convenient lifeline to hold onto when the landing gear deployed. Unlike Maruhi, Molina was granted refugee status and now hopes to bring his family to Canada. Presumably in more comfortable circumstances.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A man was found dead Tuesday night in the wheel well of a British Airways plane at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, authorities said. It is the second body found in the wheel well of a plane at the airport in less than a week.

The discovery comes at a time of a heightened terror threat alert level in the nation. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security asked that foreign air carriers have armed marshals on some flights in the United States when requested.

The body was discovered while the aircraft's first officer was conducting a routine examination after the plane's arrival from London's Heathrow Airport.

"The aircraft's first officer was conducting an examination of the plane when he was struck by a strong odor coming from the left wheel well," a law enforcement official involved in the investigation said.

The dead stowaway, a black male between the ages of 30 and 35, was wearing shoes and pants with some Nigerian currency in his pants pocket, the official said.

"The plane was in Lagos, Nigeria, on Christmas Eve, and we believe the man climbed into the wheel well while it was in Nigeria," he said.

Jim Peters with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said the body was found hidden in the wheel well about 7 p.m. ET, was removed immediately and taken to the medical examiner's office.

A British Airways spokesman confirmed that a body was removed from the wheel well of one of the airline's jets, but he declined to provide additional information and would not speculate on any possible breach of security.

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman Tony Ciavolella said the Boeing 747 flew to JFK from Heathrow as Flight 177.

The FBI, Port Authority, Queens district attorney's office and Transportation Security Administration are conducting a joint investigation, Ciavolella said.

On Christmas Day, the body of a man was found at JFK on an American Airlines flight from Jamaica.

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