Stowaway survives in nose wheel during flight from South Africa to Netherlands

AMSTERDAM — A stowaway hiding in the nose wheel of a cargo plane survived an 11-hour flight from South Africa to the Netherlands, authorities said Sunday.

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The man had been hiding for more than 11 hours since the plane left Johannesburg, a spokesperson at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport told CNN. The man was not identified, but officials said he is believed to be between 16 and 35 years old, the news outlet reported.

It is unusual for stowaways on long flights to survive, due to the cold and low oxygen at high altitudes, the BBC reported.

“The man was found alive in the nose wheel section of the plane and was taken to hospital in a stable condition,” Royal Dutch Military Police spokesperson Joanna Helmonds told the AFP news agency. “It is quite remarkable that the man is still alive.”

A spokesperson for freight carrier Cargolux confirmed in an email to Reuters that the stowaway had been on a flight operated by Cargolux Italia.

“We are not in a position to make any further comment until the authorities and the airline have completed their investigation,” the spokesperson said.

According to flight data, the only Cargolux freight flight from Johannesburg to Schiphol on Sunday also stopped in Nairobi, Kenya, the BBC reported. It is unclear whether the man boarded the plane in South Africa or Kenya.

When the plane landed, members of the airport ground spotted the man and immediately notified authorities, CNN reported. Dutch police and emergency services confirmed that the man was alive but had a low body temperature, Helmonds told the news outlet.

The man was revived and stabilized at the airport and then taken to a hospital in Amsterdam, Helmonds told CNN.

“When the man has recovered and cleared by the hospital, he will then be processed at the Asylum Seekers Centre where his status will be determined if he indeed is looking for asylum,” Helmonds told the news outlet.