One of my correspondents lives, and sometimes walks to work, directly underneath one of the Heathrow flightpaths where, from time to time, bodies fall out of aircraft undercarriages when their wheels . . . are lowered for landing. He recently walked in front of the office building onto which the latest body fell yesterday from a Johannesburg flight. If I were him I think I would be looking up quite frequently whenever I heard the sound of an approaching aircraft. My friend is not neurotic on the matter but, nevertheless, is begining to be concerned. One of these days, someone might be killed — that is, in addition to the stowaway himself, of course, who might have died within minutes of taking off, depleted of oxygen or from freezing.*
It is a tragedy to be hit on the head by a falling rock, as unfortunately happened to a young woman yesterday on Llantwit Major beach in South Wales yesterday. It is doubly so to be hit by a falling body walking along a London Street where there are no red warning signs. In view of the fact that there will undoubtedly be an increasing number of desperate migrants from Africa in the coming years, then this should be a matter of official concern. Surely all responsible airplane operators — in this case, British Aiways — ought to be looking at their undercarriages before the plane takes off. All it requires is someone to do a quick inspection with a flashlight.
*There was, however, another person involved on the same flight. He appeared to have caught on the undercarriage as it lowered and didn’t fall free as the plane descended to Heathrow. But, astonishingly, he was still alive and is now in a West London hospital. This suggests to me that he started freezing very rapidly and, in that state, when brains freeze quickly, individuals can survive without oxygen. There have been a number of cases where people have been trapped under ice in freezing conditions for quite lengthy periods of an hour or so — and still recovered. However, at too low or too prolonged temperatures, water in the body cells crystallise and damage the other contents. It is thus unlikely that the injured man will actually recover, though it is to be hoped that he might do so, both for humane and scientific reasons.