The boy, who is thought to have been aged between eight and 14 and of African appearance, had crush injuries apparently caused by the hydraulic mechanism of the British Airways Boeing 747.
His body, clad only in light clothing, was taken to Crawley hospital for a post-mortem examination. Whether he had been injured when the plane took off from Kenya or when it came in to land at Gatwick, or whether he died from hypothermia in the sub-zero temperatures as the aircraft made its flight was not known. Yesterday a search began to find out whether the boy was alone.
Sussex police said they were not treating the boy's death as suspicious. Chief Inspector Mike Alderson said: "We don't know what motivated him to take this desperate act, but whatever his motivation was, it is a tragic loss of life."
Bob Ayling, British Airways' chief executive, said: "This is a tragic loss of life which we very much regret. Security is paramount to British Airways and we take this incident very seriously."
In a similar incident, a stowaway survived 10 hours in the undercarriage of a British Airways jumbo jet with temperatures falling as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius last October. Pardeep Saini, 22, was found suffering from hypothermia by baggage handlers at Heathrow following the flight from Delhi to London. His younger brother, Vijay, froze to death during the flight after the pair hid in a wheel housing. Mr Saini this month appealed against his rejected political asylum application to stay in Britain.
tImmigration officials were yesterday interviewing three men, thought to be from Albania, who were found hiding in a lorry trailer at Kettering, Northamptonshire. The men were discovered when staff at the site went to unpack the lorry, which had arrived from Calais.Reuse content