dventure, such an inoffensive word that only brings joy when you hear it. Most people in their life seek adventure, a lifestyle that makes you take spontaneous decisions that will not allow you to think of the possible consequences. However, one such soul-seeking adventurer found himself the very wrong spontaneous decision, bringing his life too quickly to an end.
In 1970, a boy named Keith Sapsford fell from a Tokyo-bound Japan Air flight seconds after the aircraft had taken off. What is more shocking is that many people present at the Sydney Airport that day bore witness as the boy fell to his death. Now just imagine being the parent of this child and hearing from someone that your child fell from an aircraft to his death whilst looking for him in despair.
Urge for Adventure
As Keith approached his teenage years, he became very rebellious as he was always seeking adventure in the sense of traveling and seeing new places around the globe. His parents tried to take him on as many holidays as their time as well as financial resources permitted, but Keith never had enough, he always wanted more. His father described him as a curious kid who always had an “urge to keep on the move”.
One of the last straws that made Keith decide to leave was that his parents were planning to send him to a Catholic residential school, something that all teenagers would hate. Just a month before the incident, his parents took him on a vacation to remove his urge of running away, but this only worsened things.
On February 21st, 1970, Keith decided to run away from home and go on holiday by himself. He never really cared about the destination, for Keith, it was always the sense of adventure, of going where ever life takes you or better said, where fate takes you. With no money, nor access to the right papers to travel alone (without the consent of his parents), he knew that the only way for him to get on a plane is to sneak onto the tarmac of Kingsford Airport.
Once on the tarmac, Keith notices a Douglas DC-8 preparing for boarding, that was his chance to get into the plane. He sneaked onto the wheels of an airliner heading towards Tokyo. Keith tried to hide in the compartment where the wheels (gears) of the plane get retracted after takeoff. Technicians believe that the teen had been hiding there for some time before takeoff and Keith wasn’t aware that the wheel compartment would have to reopen when the landing gear needed to be retracted after takeoff.
Falling to Death
That was when Keith fell to his death, whilst the aircraft only managed to climb 60 meters. On the same day, at the same place, and surprisingly at the same time, photographer John Gilpin came to the airport just like every other Sunday to take pictures of various aircraft. Gilpin was the person who took the infamous photo of Keith falling from the aircraft.
The boy was seen falling from 60 meters (200 feet) and his body hitting the tarmac, killing him on impact. News outlets who came to report the incident were unable to describe the scenery, that is how horrific his remains looked. Whilst Keith was on the plane, his parents were looking everywhere for him, thinking that he had run away to one of his friends. At the time of the incident, Keith had been missing for 2 days. Keith’s parents had to experience hearing that their son had died from the police.
“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.” (Quote by Charles Sapsford/Keith’s father)
Agents who investigated the case had concluded that if Keith didn’t die by falling, he would have most probably would have died from the lack of oxygen within that compartment.
It had been noted from a police report taken by Keith’s father that he told him that he should never wander as going somewhere without a plan can condemn you to a lot of danger. His father also told him a story about a Spanish boy who also died a few years earlier while hiding in a plane’s undercarriage.
There have been 96 recorded stowaway attempts between 1947 and 2012 in wheel compartments of 85 flights. Of those 96 people, 73 died and only 23 survived. New security systems must be implemented to assure the safety of people in the look to hitchhike a plane.
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