The Incredible Story Behind The Boy Who Fell From A Jumbo Jet


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It might be that you’ve never seen this picture before – which wouldn’t be a surprise given that it’s 49 years old. It shows the moment a teenage stowaway fell to his death when the aeroplane wheel-well he was hiding inside opened in mid-air.

Keith Sapsford, from Sydney, was just 14 years old in 1970 when he climbed into the plane to ‘see how the rest of the world lives’.

The plane he fell out of was bound for Japan. When the compartment opened mid-air, the youngster fell out above Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, plummeting 60 metres (200ft).

According to the MailOnline, the shot was captured 49 years ago this week by amateur photographer John Gilpin, who was taking pictures of planes during take-off.

Mr Gilpin was completely oblivious to the fact that he had captured the young boy’s last moments until he developed the pictures the following week.

The child’s family had just returned from a round-the-world trip which was believed to have been booked to satisfy his thirst for travel.

On 23 February 1970, the Associated Press reported that his father, Charles Sapford, said: “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.”

Once the family returned from their travels, Keith had an ‘urge to keep on the move’ and was restless in their hometown of Randwick, New South Wales.

This was when Charles made the decision to send his son to a Roman Catholic Institution in Sydney to ‘straighten him out’, but the young boy ran away a number of times.

After only two weeks there, he travelled to Sydney Airport where he managed to get onto the runway and climb into the wheel-well of a Japan Air Lines plane destined for Tokyo.

The MailOnline reported that technicians believed the boy – who was dressed in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt – was unaware the latch would reopen after take-off to bring the wheel back inside, which is when he fell.

According to doctors, Keith would have most likely died on the journey even without falling, due to the freezing altitude temperatures and lack of oxygen.

Tragically, Charles Sapsford explained how he had previously spoken to Keith about a Spanish boy who died hiding inside the undercarriage of a plane just months before the incident.

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