The dead body of a young African male adolescent has been found in the wheel well of a US military cargo plane after it landed in a German airbase.
According to reports from the Pentagon, the body of the boy, who is believed to be from Mali and in his teens, was found aboard the C-130J cargo aircraft as it made its final stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany - the Headquarters of US Air Forces Europe.
Officials said the body was discovered on Sunday night after those inspecting the aircraft saw a small piece of orange cloth sticking out of the area above the plane’s wheels.
After investigating closer, Air Force inspectors discovered that the cloth was an item of clothing on a young African boy who had found his way into one of the plane’s wheel wells and had died during flight.
The plane had been carrying out missions across Africa and had stopped in a number of countries including Senegal, Mali, Chad and Tunisia, before stopping off in Italy and then arriving at its final destination in Germany.
It is believed that the stowaway could have climbed aboard the aeroplane at one of these stop-offs, with senior officials from the US saying that Mali was the most likely of these destinations.
The incident marks a major security breach for the US military and the fact that an adolescent boy was able to board the aircraft will be a concern, if not an embarrassment, for US Air Force officials.
Commenting on the breach of security, the Navy’s Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said 'Security is going to be looked at here. Obviously it would be,' Kirby said. 'We try to provide as much security as we can for our aircraft when they're operating in remote locations, and this will all be part of the investigation.'
He added: 'We'll learn what happened here, and if there's corrective action that needs to be taken, we'll take it.”
According to Kirby the Air Force would carry out an internal investigation into the incident.
The body has now been passed over to German authorities so that they can carry out a full autopsy; however, Kirby did confirm that from initial lab results, there was no sign of the boy carrying any infectious diseases.