By Flora Drury
A body discovered by horrified ground staff who noticed blood dripping from a US plane which was carrying suitcases of cash may have been a stowaway from a previous flight, it has been claimed.
The Western Global Airlines charter flight had been hired by the South African government, and was flying from Munich to Durban with millions of Rand onboard when it stopped in Harare, Zimbabwe.
But as ground staff inspected the plane, they noticed blood dripping onto the runway – something the crew originally dismissed as the result of hitting a bird, one source said.
It fell to the American captain to put on latex gloves and open the hatch, at which point a body fell half-way out, witnesses revealed.
- Western Global Airlines plane had to make an unscheduled stop in Harare
- Crew ‘claimed it was a bird’, but man’s body was found ‘suspended’ inside
- Charter flight travelling from Munich, Germany, to Durban, South Africa
- Plane was carrying cargo for South African Reserve Bank, say authorities
The man, who a source told MailOnline was of ‘African’ appearance, had burns on his head.
Western Global Airlines has now said the man is thought to have been a stowaway who boarded the Boeing MD-11 freighter aircraft, which is leased to Network Airline Management, before a previous flight. It had previously been in Uganda, Nigeria and Belgium.
The spokesman said: ‘Western Global’s aircraft fly for Network Airline Management from Europe to Africa several times a week on a regular basis. Western Global provides the aircraft and crew and Network Airline Management provides the cargo, loading and unloading, and ground security as required.
‘This particular flight was from Germany to South Africa, we are told for the South African Government. During a routine fuel stop in Zimbabwe, a body was found in the lower compartment.
‘The body is presumed to be a stowaway who may have entered the airplane during a previous stop. The situation is currently under review.’
Police in the Zimbabwean capital have now impounded the plane, which was said to carrying cargo for South African Reserve Bank, based in Pretoria, while they investigate the matter.
According to the airport, the plane was carrying a ‘diplomatic consignment’, with the South African ambassador spending most of Sunday at the airport.
The current whereabouts of the crew – said to be two Americans, a South African and a Pakistani – is not known, but some reports suggest they have been arrested.
According to Zimbabwe’s Herald, the captain had originally requested to stop in Mozambique, but was turned down – so turned to the neighboring country.
A source told the newspaper: ‘Upon refueling, the airport attendant discovered that there was blood dripping from the plane.
‘When they checked to try and ascertain where the blood was coming from that is when they discovered a suspended dead body in the plane.’
Another source revealed to the African News Agency that they were first told by the crew they had ‘hit a bird in the air’.
‘But then a search was made and the body of an adult male fell out,’ the source said.
David Chawota, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe, confirmed it had decided to hold the plane.
‘The police are now handling the issue and the plane, which is owned by Western Global Airlines, has been grounded at Harare International Airport since Sunday,’ he told BDLive.
Western Global Airlines is based in Florida, but boasts of its ‘vast operating reach’ across 44 countries as one of ‘largest worldwide commercial cargo transportation services’.
It is privately owned by founder James K Neff and Sunny Neff, and has a freighter fleet of 16 wide-body aircraft used by the likes of UPS and FedEx.
During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, it flew dozens of relief missions to affected areas.
Source: Mail Online