Stowaway falls from BA plane onto Richmond office

Urgent investigation underway into security at Johannesburg.

A stowaway died after falling from a British Airways 747 onto an office building in Richmond, southwest London, less than 100 metres from the main bus, tube and train station.

He and another man are believed to have climbed into the front wheelwell of the 747 at Johannesburg before it began the 8,000 mile flight to Heathrow.

The second man, aged between 25 and 30, is in a critical condition in a west London hospital after miraculously surviving the ordeal.

The victim died as the Boeing 747 came into land over Richmond at around 9.30am on Thursday.

Heathrow lies to the west of London. Most of the time aircraft landing at Heathrow come in over central London, go west and lower the wheels over Richmond or Kew. Richmond is about three minutes flying time from Heathrow. The 747 would have been at an altitude of around 1,400ft.

The body fell onto the roof of the building used by the internet company,, which is less than 100 metres from the main transport hub in Richmond for tubes, trains and buses.

Both men would have endured terrible conditions in the wheelweel with extremely low temperatures, up to -50 celsius, and very little oxygen. The men were likely to have been unconscious for most of the flight and would not have been aware of the wheels being lowered.

About three-quarters of stowaways are killed by the cold or the landing gear during flights.

Security questions

Flight International magazine consulting editor David Learmount said:

“If these two were neither airline nor airport staff and somehow managed to get on a flight then it becomes a serious security issue. Just how did they get (on the restricted) airside at the airport?”

Other incidents

2013 – a suspected stowaway from Turkey was found frozen to death in the undercarriage of a BA jet from Istanbul to Heathrow.

2012 – 26-year-old from Mozambique died after falling from the undercarriage of a Heathrow-bound flight from Angola on to a road in Mortlake, about a mile from Richmond.

Prayers for the men

The people of Richmond will be praying for both men tonight.

Reverend Neil Summers, from the St John the Divine of Richmond church opposite where the body was found, said he was “shocked” and would lead prayers for the dead man.

“It’s shocking, you do not expect these things to happen on your patch really. In one sense it’s not totally surprising as it’s happened before. It’s very shocking when it’s so close to you. We are going to say prayers for the people concerned tonight.”


Richmond-waterfrontRichmond is in the southwest of London. It is one of the most desirable areas of the London and the United Kingdom. Overall, Richmond people have the longest life expectancy, the best health, the highest intelligence, the highest average earnings in the UK.

Richmond is home to many celebrities and media types and is now one of the UK tech hotspots.

The people of Richmond are represented by Tory MP Zac Goldsmith who is now the leading candidate to become the next Mayor of London.

Zac Goldsmith and the people of Richmond are overwhelmingly opposed to any Heathrow expansion.

Internet links

Johannesburg Airport (JNB)

British Airways