BY TOBY PORTER
Firms and families have been left reeling at the potential danger after a stowaway on a flight to Heathrow from Nairobi fell to the ground in someone’s garden.
Residents were out enjoying sweltering temperatures on Sunday in Clapham when the refugee – probably by then frozen to death or starved of oxygen – plunged 3,500ft onto paving at the back of Offerton Road.
A church, fire station, coffee shops, meditation centre, ballet school and family homes within yards were full of people working or relaxing at 3.39pm when residents heard the thud of the body hitting the ground.
The victim landed inches from computer software engineer John Baldock, who has returned to his family home in Exeter to recover from the trauma.
Pastor Chris Andre-Watson of nearby Clapham Baptist Church said: “Yesterday afternoon in our prayer meeting we were praying about this situation and struggling to comprehend the context that would lead to such a desperate act.
“We are concious that all over the world there are ordinary people whose lives are in such turmoil and conflict that they feel forced to resort to such measures.
“We are called to not only protect the peace prospertiy and justice of our own citizens and nation but to ensure that this is extended to all people everywhere so that they can live their live in security.”
The Jam Tree bar, Kamson’s Pharmacy and Cubitt Convenience Store were all busy serving customers – while the historic Bread & Roses Pub in Clapham Manor Street was packed with more than 200 customers, with scores of them sitting at tables outside.
This is not an only event in South London – Mozambican Carlito Vale hit an office roof in Richmond, in June 2015 after plunging from a British Airways jet.
Turkish stowaway Kikmet Komur, 32, froze to death in the landing gear compartment of a BA jet in July 2013. A 20-year-old Romanian man survived in the undercarriage of a private jet from Vienna to Heathrow in 2010.
A man survived an 11-hour flight from South Africa – it flew at low altitude, so he could breathe.
Peter Kelly of Kamson’s said: “People did talk about it in the shop and perhaps many see it as local news but I do not think anyone had been that worried – but they probably did not realise it has happened before. I certainly hadn’t realised at the time.”
Oxford University graduate Mr Baldock was just inches from the falling body, which left a crater in the garden of the home he rents.
Neighbours heard a shattering thump, which shook their windows. “I thought my house was falling down. I went upstairs and looked out window and saw the body,” one said.
Resident Tristan Jervis said: “I heard the big bang but thought nothing of it – I was semi-asleep at the time. I understand neighbours were quite shocked, especially one neighbour who saw the remains of the body.
There were children outside playing just 15 minutes before the incident happened.
“The owner was sunbathing and is absolutely shocked. We do have planes coming over but we do not expect a stowaway situation like this. It is highly regrettable and very very sad.”
Another, Helena Parsi, said: “I was thinking it would have been an accident – but not someone who had been up there on purpose.”
Airline workers said a bag, water and stash of food were later found in the plane’s landing gear.
Mr Baldock has lived in the house for six months, for Plexi, based in Bermondsey.
The stowaway is believed to have been working at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
Investigators are understood to have found CCTV footage of him. He is likely to have blacked out just 20 minutes after take-off as oxygen levels fell and would have been frozen to death by temperatures of around -60C.
The force of the impact was so severe that police were initially unable to tell whether the body was male or female. It is now understood the man was wearing a blue T-shirt and jeans.
Forensics examined the scene for five hours before removing evidence.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “This is a shocking incident and our thoughts are with those involved.
“While we do not comment on operational matters, we are liaising with the Kenyan authorities and the air carrier as they carry out their investigation into this incident.”