In a story that is both incredible and tragic, one stowaway survived the 8,000-mile flight from Johannesburg, South Africa to London on Thursday by apparently clinging on in the wheel recess of a British Airways Boeing 747 – a fellow stowaway who was with him fell to his death in London.
The two are thought to have hidden themselves on flight BA0054 before it took off Wednesday evening in an overnight 11-hour and five-minute flight to Heathrow Airport in London, reports the British Daily Mail.
The two would have been exposed to temperatures as low as -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) during the night trip and a lack of oxygen due to the intense heights and speed the plane was traveling at.
"A man, aged between 25 and 30 years, has been taken to a west London hospital. His condition remains serious. Enquiries are ongoing to establish the man’s identity," read a Scotland Yard statement.
While the one stowaway survived in critical condition, his compatriot was less fortunate, falling to his death as the landing gear opened over London during the approach to Heathrow.
The plane is estimated to have been at an altitude of 1,400 feet when it passed over Kew Road, Richmond located in southwest London where the man's body was found on the rooftop of an office building.
A spokesperson for the curated online store NotOnTheHighStreet.com, on whose rooftop the body was discovered, said the "early indications are that the body may be that of an airline stowaway," adding, "the incident is unrelated to the business or its team members."
Members of the church across the street from where the body was found said they will offer prayers for the man on Friday, reports The Guardian.
"It’s very shocking when something like happens on your doorstep. Coupled with all the migrants coming across the high seas into Europe from North Africa, it’s just another example of how desperate people are to reach this country to try to find a better life for themselves,” said the church's Reverend Neil Summers.
He added, "it’s horribly sad when something like this happens and we will be offering up prayers for their memory this afternoon. Our sympathies go out to relatives and friends of those involved."
This is in fact not the first time that such incidents have happened with stowaways arriving in Heathrow.
The body of a man was found in the landing gear of a Boeing 747 from Cape Town, South Africa, after it arrived in August 2012. A month later, the body of a man from Mozambique fell from a British Airways plane arriving at Heathrow from Luanda, Angola.
And in July 2013, a stowaway was found frozen to death in the undercarriage of another British Airways flight from Istanbul.