A man’s body has been found in the undercarriage of a plane that flew from Gambia to the UK, Sussex police have said. In a statement, the force said: “Police were called after the body of a man was found in the undercarriage of an aircraft at Gatwick Airport, arriving from Gambia, at about 4am on 7 December.
The unidentified body of a black male was found in the wheel bay of a jet operated by Tui Airways – a British charter airline – that had flown from Gambia’s capital of Banjul to London’s Gatwick Airport, Gambia’s government spokesman said in a statement on Tuesday.
Sussex Police said the body was discovered at Gatwick around 4am on 7 December.
In a statement, the force said: “Police were called after the body of a man was found in the undercarriage of an aircraft at Gatwick Airport, arriving from Gambia, at about 4am on December 7.
“Officers are investigating and a report will be prepared for HM Coroner.”
Tui said it would not comment as the incident was being handled by the police.
He said officials received information about the incident this week from Sussex Police, and that the man’s identity was currently unknown.
A Tui Airways spokesperson said: “We can confirm that an investigation with authorities is underway after a body was discovered on a TUI flight from Gambia to London Gatwick Airport on December 7. We would like to express our sincere condolences.”
A direct flight from Gambia’s capital Banjul to Gatwick takes around six hours.
Ebrima G. Sankareh, Gambia’s government spokesman, said: “According to the information, the deceased black male was found within the wheel bay of the aircraft without identification documents to establish his name, age, nationality or travel itinerary. It is, therefore, not clear at this stage, who he is.”
He added that the body has been taken to the morgue for DNA testing and an investigation is underway – with Gambian authorities working together with British police.
In 2015, Dutch authorities discovered a body in the landing gear of a plane from Africa in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
While it may be tempting to hitch a ride and attempt to snag a free flight, hiding out in the landing gear of an aircraft very often leads to death by exposure. Not only that, but flights will spend hours at freezing 38,000 feet altitude where oxygen is scarce.
It is not the first time the bodies of stowaways have been found on planes.
Similar instances of stowaways have been linked to desperate attempts at migration. Last month saw three men discovered on a ship’s rudder in the Canary Islands, following an 11-day ocean voyage from Nigeria.
The men, found on the Alithini II oil tanker at the Las Palmas port on Monday afternoon appeared to have symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia and were transferred to hospitals on the island for medical attention, according to Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society.
Rida Lyammouri, senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Moroccan-based organization focused on economics and policy, said: “This unfortunate incident, while rare, indicates how desperate some people are to the point of taking such a risky way to migrate.
“This will not deter some West Africans from taking risky attempts to reach Europe, and unfortunately we will continue to see people die in the Mediterranean and the Sahel desert.”
The deceased man carried no information or documents that shared his identity. Officials also haven’t confirmed his identity.