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UK police unable to identify man who fell from sky

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 10, 2012 at 8:14 am •  Published: December 10, 2012

Police also said attempts to identify the man with the help of Angolan authorities had been unsuccessful. They stressed there is only "circumstantial" evidence linking the stowaway to that country.

In a statement, police said the man is believed to be an African of slight build between the ages of 20 and 30. He was wearing jeans, white sneakers and a gray sweatshirt when he was found on Sept. 9, police said.

Although firm figures are not available, in recent years there has been a rise in the number of stowaways trying to get to Western Europe by hiding in the undercarriages of passenger planes.

Aviation safety specialist Chris Yates of Yates Consulting said Sunday that poor airport 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 that most attempts fail.

"They so often end in fatality because more often than not stowaways climb into the wheel base or cargo hold, and those areas are not necessarily pressurized," he said. "When you start moving beyond 10,000 feet, oxygen starvation becomes a reality. 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."

He said the man who crashed to the pavement in Mortlake had probably lost consciousness and died within the first hour of his flight.

Police said the body is being held for possible repatriation in case the man's identity is established.

Mortlake residents and business people speak of a similar death in recent years, but disagree about the timing and the details.

"People say the same thing happened a few years ago a few blocks away" said Jay Sivapalan, 29, who works at the Variety Box convenience store half a block from where the body landed. "We are near Heathrow and when they lower the landing gear, the body falls out."

Others believe the incident may have happened 10 years ago. Police said they had no information about other stowaway deaths.