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'Falling man' changes London neighborhood

By GREGORY KATZ Published: December 11, 2012
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Frustrated police have released a composite electronic image of what they believe the man's face looked like before his fall, as well as a photo of a tattoo on his left arm, in hopes that he may be identified.

Based on circumstantial evidence, including some currency found in his jeans pocket, they believe he may have been from Angola, but discussions with Angolan authorities have not provided useful clues.

In the days after the macabre discovery, some residents moved by the man's death placed flowers at the spot where his body landed.

Unofficial representatives of London's Angolan community trekked to Mortlake to pay their respects to the man, even though no one knew who he was.

They prayed and also left flowers — but the bouquet was quickly removed by residents after the delegation departed, for fears that it would become an unwanted, permanent shrine to the unknown passenger.

Some are still unwilling to discuss the falling man.

“Is this about the man from the sky?” asked one woman when approached by a reporter as she parked her car on Portman Avenue. “I don't want to talk about it. That was my house.”

Aviation safety specialist Chris Yates said Sunday that poor perimeter security at a number of airports in Africa — including the main Angola airport at Luanda — and in other parts of the world has made it easier for people to stow away on planes.

But it's dangerous, and often fatal, not least because areas such as the cargo hold or the wheel base, where stowaways often climb into, aren't necessarily pressurized. Yates said the man who crashed to the pavement in Mortlake had probably lost consciousness and died within the first hour of his flight.

“When you start moving beyond 10,000 feet, oxygen starvation becomes a reality,” he said. “As you climb up to altitude, the issue becomes cold as well, the temperature drops to minus 40 or minus 50 degrees centigrade, so survival rates drop.”

The sidewalk has been cleaned and the flowers are long gone, but residents and local workers are still talking about the man, said Jay Sivapalan, 29, an employee at the Variety Box convenience store near where the body landed.

“It was just a strange thing,” he said.


Read the rest of the story on Oklahoman.com
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