Surely someone unwillingly falling out of a plane while it is in mid-air should be a cause for alarm. After all, you’re paying the airline good money to make sure that you get to your destination safe and sound.
However, not many people know the story of the boy who fell out of a passenger jet while it was in the air. But that would hardly be any surprise as the incident happened way back in 1970 or a full 49 years ago this week. But his case still represents an incredible, if tragic, story.
Keith Sapsford, from Sydney, was only 14 years old when he decided he wanted to “see how the rest of the world lives” and therefore decided to stow away inside the wheel well of a passenger jet. Unfortunately, the compartment doors opened in mid-air, causing him to plunge 200 feet to his death.
The plane took off from Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport and was headed to Japan at the time.
An amateur photographer by the name of John Gilpin was taking pictures of planes as they took off and hadn’t realized that he had captured Keith’s last moments until he developed the pictures the following week.
What’s even more sad about the story is that the boy’s family had just come from a round-the-world trip that they had arranged to satisfy his wanderlust.
Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be enough. Keith still had the “urge to keep on the move” and couldn’t keep still in their hometown of Randwick, New South Wales.
This is when Keith’s father decided to send his son to a Roman Catholic institution in Sydney to “straighten him out” but it didn’t work as Keith ran away a few times.
Only two weeks later, he then made a trip to Sydney Airport and managed to get onto the runway to sneak into the wheel well of a Japan Air Lines jet headed to Tokyo.
According to MailOnline, technicians believe that Keith did not know the latch on the wheel-well would re-open after take-off so that the wheel can be brought back inside and this caused him to fall.
An Associated Press report on February 23, 1970, had quoted the father, Charles Sapford, as saying, “All my son wanted to do was to see the world. He had itchy feet. His determination to see how the rest of the world lives has cost him his life.”
But doctors say that even if he hadn’t fallen, Keith would likely have died anyway because of the freezing temperatures at high altitude and the lack of oxygen.
The sad irony is that just a few months before the incident, Keith’s father told him the story of a Spanish boy who perished while hiding inside the undercarriage of a plane.
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