A Man Fell From a Plane, and a 'Befuddling' Case Began

Inside the effort to determine the identity of a stowaway from Kenya
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2021 8:01 AM CDT
A Man Fell From a Plane, and a 'Befuddling' Case Began
Stock photo of a plane.   (Photo by JohNNN ZHANG from Pexels)

It's a "suicidally dangerous thing to do": cramming your body into the wheel well of a passenger plane. In a lengthy piece for the Guardian, Sirin Kale makes clear that his statement is not hyperbole. Citing FAA data, of the 128 people known to have tried to stowaway on planes in this manner over a 73-year period, more than 75% died from one of the many things that can kill you: falling out during takeoff, being smashed by retracting landing gear, temperatures that can be as low as -30 degrees, and the lack of oxygen. If you survive until it's time to land you'll almost definitely be unconscious, increasing the likelihood that you'll fall out when the landing gear descends. On June 30, 2019, as a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner began its approach into London, that very thing happened: A body fell.

So began a "befuddling" case into the man's identity—and Paul Graves of the Metropolitan Police was put at the helm of it. As Kale recounts, a Brit named Wil happened to see that particular plane in the sky and used it to demonstrate to his roommate an app that can capture any passing plane's route and model info. And then he saw an object tumble out of it. With the details that app had captured it was clear the body came from Kenya Airways flight KQ 100. In the wheel well was a backpack containing no ID but the initials MCA. The man's DNA and fingerprints were dead ends. Graves traveled to the Nairobi airport and reviewed CCTV footage, but it didn't show the stowaway board. Graves disseminated info to Kenyan police, and reporters pounced, leading to an ID—which ended up being a fake. The man's identity remains unknown. (Read the full piece for much more on the history of stowaways.)

Stories to sink your teeth into.
Get our roundup of longform stories every Saturday.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.