Stowaway Who Survived 5,600-mile Flight to England Clinging to Airplane Is Given Asylum

A stowaway who managed to stay alive after a 5,600-mile flight at -60C hanging on to an airplane has been given asylum and is now living in Liverpool, UK. 

30-year-old Themba Cabeka, who held on to the British Airways jumbo jet undercarriage for 11 hours straight from South Africa to London’s Heathrow airport has shared his thoughts on the life-threatening experience.

He spoke about how he woke up from a coma months later to learn that his best friend had fallen 5000 feet from the plane to his demise.

Themba had lost consciousness and was kept in a hospital 6 months after he was found on the ground at the UK airport.

He had been deprived of oxygen as he flew from Johannesburg on June 18, 2015.

Shortly before the plane landed, Themba’s friend, Carlito Vale, who had been running from a life of poverty and had crawled with him into the wheel arch, fell off and lost his life.

Channel 4’s Rich Bentley meets stowaway Themba Cabeka. Image: Daily Mail

Carlito’s body was found in the air-conditioning unit of a Richmond office block, 6 miles from the airport.

Themba said:

‘When the plane was flying, I could see the ground, I could see the cars, I could see small people.

“After a little time, I passed out through lack of oxygen. The last thing I remember just after the plane took off was Carlito saying to me: ‘Yeah, we’ve made it.'”

He added that when he woke up from his coma, authorities showed him Carlito’s passport and asked:

“Do you know him?”

To which Themba answered:

“Of course I know him. That’s my friend, Carlito.”

The police officer told him:

“He never made it. He fell on top of a building.”

Image: Daily Mail

In order to fit in quicker, Themba now goes by the name Justin. He shared that it was both his and his friend’s first time to fly with a plane.

“We had to force ourselves to be squeezed inside. I could hear the engine running,” he recalled. “My heart had pounded before, but that day it was not in my mind at all because I had just taken the decision to do it.

“I knew how dangerous it was but I just took my own chances. I didn’t care whether I lived or died. I had to leave Africa to survive.”

Themba used an electric cable to tie himself to the plane.

Eventually, he lost consciousness, and the first thing he remembers after that was lying on the runway with a broken leg.

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