Mystery deepens over body on plane

Harare - Mystery deepens in Zimbabwe’s aviation circles about events surrounding the discovery of an unidentified body of a man which fell out of a US freighter, stuffed with South African Rand, after it landed at Harare International Airport on Sunday.

One of the suspicions which has set tongues wagging in Harare about the extraordinary incident, is that after Zimbabwe officials saw blood dripping from the plane, the US flight engineer put on latex gloves before he opened a door, high on the plane, near the site of the blood and other fluids dripping from the aircraft.

Mystery surrounds the discovery of a body on a US freighter, which landed at Harare airport stuffed with SA Rands. Credit: INDEPENDENT MEDIA

The Equipment and Navigation Accessories (ENA) door of the MD 11 freighter is high up on the aircraft, not easily entered from the ground, and almost impossible to open midair, according to aviation experts who have seen the American freighter at Harare International Airport after it landed “during an emergency” on Sunday.

It was allegedly carrying 57 tons of South African Rand, and two reserve bank officials are still on the aircraft guarding the money which was due to be delivered to Durban.

The plane had on board the US captain, the co-pilot, a relief pilot, an engineer and a load master and the two officials from the South African Reserve Bank.

But a reconstruction of the time before the plane landed is now being examined by the Zimbabwe Republic Police.

The US pilot, whose name is not public yet, nor is he known in aviation circles in Zimbabwe as the US freight company had never landed in Harare before, requested emergency landing to refuel after being refused permission in Mozambique.

The US pilot was “vague” about why he needed permission to land in Harare.

“The transcripts show three requests and none are clear. But he was flying low and so probably did therefore use a lot of fuel.”

Eventually permission was given and it landed.

Workers from the National Handling Co, according to information in the aviation world in Harare, went to attend to the plane and noticed blood high up on the plane, near the ENA door.

They were allegedly told it was caused by collision with a bird.

But drops of blood were still coming from that door area, and state security officials stationed at the airport insisted it be opened.

“So the engineer from the plane, for some reason put on latex gloves and opened the door which is quite high up the aircraft, and thwack, a fully clothed body of a black man fell out,” said an aviation insider.

Everyone around the plane was shocked and several noticed that there were burns to the dead man’s head, probably from ducts inside the ENA compartment. The dead man had no identification on him.

His body remained hanging out of the plane on the ground until Zimbabwe Republic Police arrived to take it away.

There are suspicions and speculation in aviation circles in Harare now that the US crew may have tried to dump the body during the flight from Munich, Germany, but could not open the ENA door from inside the aircraft over Mozambique because of pressure, and wanted to refuel in Harare and somehow dump the body after take off from Harare International.

The dead man is being investigated in Harare, but there are no qualified pathologists left in Zimbabwe.

Some say the US pilot is in detention, but informed sources in Harare say the four US airmen are in Meikles, a five-star hotel in central Harare.

Relief pilots have arrived in Harare to fly the plane on to its destination, Durban, when the aircraft is cleared for take off.

Independent Foreign Service