The body of a teenage male stowaway was discovered inside the wheel well of a British Airways jet after it landed at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Sunday afternoon January 28th, authorities said.
A pilot of the British Airways Boeing 747 jet found the young man’s body inside the right main wheel well of the plane while conducting a pre-flight “walkaround inspection” at about 4:30 p.m., LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles said.
The county coroner has identified the victim as Samuel Peter Benjamin, 17, of South Africa.
The plane arrived at LAX from Heathrow Airport in London at 3:09 p.m. and was originally scheduled to make a non-stop flight back to London at 5:20 p.m., Castles said.
The more than 300 passengers booked on the flight back to London waited in Tom Bradley International Terminal while authorities conducted a preliminary investigation of the incident.
Local and federal law enforcement agencies were notified of the body’s discovery, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.
The FBI initially determined Benjamin to be a stowaway, pending the report of the county coroner, FBI spokesman Kenneth Smith said.
The preliminary investigation has found no evidence of terrorism activity or foul play, Smith said.
An autopsy was being conducted by the county coroner to determine the cause of death and how long Benjamin had been dead.
Inside the wheel well during the flight, he would have been exposed to below-freezing temperatures at an altitude of over 30,000 feet, with “little to no oxygen,” Castles said.
Authorities are awaiting the results of the coroner’s investigation to try to determine where Benjamin may have boarded the plane, Smith said.
“We have to figure out where the individual came aboard the plane,” Smith said.
The plane had reportedly traveled to South Africa and Hong Kong in the last week, authorities said.
According to a coroner spokewoman, documents found on Benjamin indicated his age and nationality.
Authorities worked with the South African Consulate to verify the documents.
The plane was released back to British Airways at 7:20 p.m. and departed for London at about 9:15 p.m. Sunday, January 28th, Castles said.