BEIRUT (AFP) – Family members have identified a man who died at the weekend after he tried to hitch a ride from Beirut to Riyadh by hiding in the wheel bay of a passenger jet, Lebanon’s justice minister said Monday.
“The man’s family was able to identify him through a photograph of him provided by Saudi Arabian authorities,” Ibrahim Najjar told AFP.
“There are also reports that he was mentally unstable, but we have yet to confirm them,” the minister added.
The man’s name was Firas Haidar, a Lebanese national from the area of Burj al-Barajneh near Beirut airport, a source close to a probe into the accident told AFP, requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to talk to the media.
The body was found by a maintenance worker who inspected the right rear landing gear of the Saudi-owned Nas Air Airbus 320 after it touched down at Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport early Saturday morning, the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation said.
“When approaching the aircraft he discovered the body of a person who had tried to hide in the wheel bay while the plane took off from Beirut International Airport,” the Jeddah-based authority said in a statement.
A Lebanon airport official said on Saturday that the man had somehow managed to grab hold of a (wheel) of the jet in Beirut without the control tower noticing before the jet took off.
Passengers on Nas Air Flight XY 720 reported seeing a man in a cap with a backpack make a dash for the plane as it prepared to taxi, according to the Lebanese media. He stumbled once and then continued towards the aircraft.
The state-run National News Agency has reported passengers and flight attendants informed the pilot, who did not take any action and continued to take off without informing the control tower.
Nas Air is yet to comment on the report.