January 08, 2020

Body of child stowaway found in Air France landing gear after Ivory Coast to Paris flight
The body of a child stowaway was found in the landing gear of a plane at a Paris airport on Wednesday - thought to have died from cold or asphyxiation on the long-haul flight from Ivory Coast. The child, aged around 10, had hidden in the undercarriage of the Air France Boeing 777 in Abidjan, the Ivorian economic capital. It took off on Tuesday evening and landed at Charles de Gaulle airport, north of the French capital, six and half hours later. The corpse, which officials said was “not warmly dressed”, was found in the plane's undercarriage cavity after landing. "Air France confirms that the lifeless body of a stowaway was found in the landing gear compartment of the aircraft operating flight AF703 from Abidjan to Paris-Charles de Gaulle on 7 January 2020," Air France said in a statement. It expressed its "deepest sympathy and compassion for this human tragedy." Sources close to the investigation told AFP the boy was about 10 years of age, and that he had "died either from asphyxiation or from the cold”. "Aside from the human drama, this shows a major failing of security at Abidjan airport," according to an Ivorian security source who asked how a child, alone, could gain such access. While the economy is vibrant in Ivory Coast with annual growth of eight percent in recent years, illegal immigration to Europe has rocketed. A Kenyan stowaway fell from a plane into a south London garden in July 2019 Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire Several stowaways, notably adolescents from Africa, have been found frozen to death or crushed in the undercarriage of Western-bound planes. The last such case in France dates to April 2013, when the body of a boy, likely a minor, was similarly found in the undercarriage of a plane from Cameroon. Last July, a suspected stowaway fell to his death from a Kenya Airways flight from Nairobi to Heathrow, landing in a garden in south London.  The chances of survival are slim given the extreme conditions people face if they try to travel in the undercarriage of a plane, which is neither heated nor pressurised. These include being crushed when landing gear retracts, frostbite, hearing loss, tinnitus and acidosis - the build-up of acid in body fluids which can cause coma or death. During the flight, temperatures can drop to as low as -63C (-81F), bringing on hypothermia. At 18,000ft, hypoxia sets in, where the whole or part of the body is deprived of an adequate oxygen supply. It causes weakness, tremors, light-headedness and eyesight problems. When a plane reaches 22,000ft, a stowaway will be struggling to keep conscious as blood oxygen level drops. Worse, a typical long-haul cruising altitude of 33,000ft  - or higher - lungs require artificial pressure to function normally. Then compartment doors re-open a few thousand feet above ground for landing, which can cause stowaways to fall to their deaths. However, some people have survived the ordeal. In June 2010, a 20-year-old Romanian was found alive inside a wheel bay after a flight from Vienna landed at Heathrow Airport. In that case, the jet had kept below 25,000ft because of bad weather. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration, some 96 people hid under planes during flights around the world between 1947 and 2012. Of those, 23 people - about one in four - had survived the journey.
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