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How Nigerian under 15-year old survived 12 hours hidden in a plane’s wheel compartment between Lagos and London

Last week Nigerian authorities launched an investigation into claims that a teenager survived 12 hours hidden in the wheel compartment of a plane between Lagos and London. An aviation official told Moov LogisticsNews on Wednesday that the investigation will look into the frequent incidents of stowaways recorded in the country’s aviation history and proffer solutions to curb it.

The incident

The boy said to be aged 15 or under, was apparently discovered in the wheel compartment of a Nigerian flag carrier, Med-View Airline’s Boeing 747, which made the round trip last Saturday, July 1, 2017.

The flight situation

During a flight with the aircraft type  Boeing 747, experts say, hypoxia or oxygen deficiency normally sets in from about 10,000 feet and would quickly render unconscious a person exposed to it. However, temperatures at that altitude plunge to -48 degrees Celsius (-55 degrees Fahrenheit), causing hypothermia. How the teenager survived at an altitude of 32,000 feet (9,754 meter) became a mystery to the authorities, the aviation industry and the public.

Other Stowaway Culprits

The culprits are mostly very young people looking for greener pastures. What really would make a person risk death stowing away on an aircraft on high altitude? The culprits never imagined death, the ambition of landing in a foreign, well-developed country usually becloud the reasoning, they focus instead on making the fight by any means and under any condition than consider any potential harm to themselves.

Harsh social and economic conditions in Nigeria are forcing many people to undergo risky journeys searching for greener pastures in Europe and the United States.

Experts attribute the success of stowaways, whether alive or dead, to their high will to survive and divine luck. But successful stowaways have been attributed to porous airports and lax security system.

There have been reports of previous examples of stowaways surviving in the wheel compartment of passenger jets. In March last year, the body of a stowaway was discovered in the undercarriage of an Arik Air jet flying from Lagos to New York. Another body was found on an Arik Air flight from Lagos when it landed in Johannesburg in November last year.

Daniel Ricky Ohikhena, was another teenage boy who stowed from Benin to Lagos in the wheel well of Arik Flight W3 544, on Saturday, August 24, 2013. Before his 15th birthday, Daniel had a bitter experience in school when he was bitten by a snake while reading in class.

The boy stowed to Lagos while hiding in one of the wheel wells of the aircraft. Airport officials in Lagos were shocked when the boy jumped out from the undercarriage of the aircraft. His action drew the attention of the world to Nigeria and his state, Edo, that day, as the stowaway boy said he thought the aircraft was on its way to the United States. Daniel’s ignorance catapulted him to the limelight as the boy, who said he wants to read aeronautic engineering, attracted the attention of his state Governor, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, who met with the boy and his parents to know what actually Daniel’s problem was.

Also, an October 1996 report by the US Federal Aviation Administration, “Survival at High Altitudes: Wheel-Well Passengers”, documents five survivors between 1947 and 1993. Three of them were teenagers, one aged 13 and two aged 17.

In April 2014, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said a 16-year-old boy survived a five-and-a-half hour flight from California to Hawaii at altitudes of up to 38,000 feet.

In October 2007, a 27-year-old man was charged with entering Singapore without a valid pass or permit, after stowing away on a 35-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur.

A history of global stowaways can be found on Wikipedia:

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