Jeddah, Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Authorities at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh yesterday morning discovered the remains of an unidentified body in the rear landing gear of a Saudi-owned “Nasair” flight. According to sources who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat, the passengers of the airplane which had taken off from Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut who were seated in the rear of the airplane saw a man wearing a baseball cap and carrying a backpack running behind the airplane during take-off. The passengers reported that this man stumbled and fell over, got up, and continued to run in the direction of the airplane before disappearing from view.
Sources in Jeddah confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the passengers informed the flight attendants who in turn informed the Beirut airport authorities of what happened. However the information that is being released from Beirut where some passengers claim that while the flight attendants did inform the pilot of what they had seen, the pilot did not take any action, that he continued the take-off and failed to inform the relevant authorities at the airport of the information he was given.
Informed sources in Jeddah told Asharq Al-Awsat that the security apparatus at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut noticed that a part of the fence surrounding the airport had been cut through, indicating that this is how this individual managed to gain access to the airport runway. This individual’s identity has not yet been confirmed, while Beirut and Riyadh have yet to officially disclose the details surrounding this story.
The Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation [GACA] issued a statement yesterday confirming the discovery of unidentified human remains in the landing gear of an Airbus 320 aircraft belonging to one of the Saudi national air lines that had taken off from Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut on Saturday morning. The statement revealed that the airplane landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, and that its passengers had disembarked at Gate 25. The statement said that a maintenance worker who was performing routine post-flight maintenance procedures noticed the presence of foreign material
The statement went on to say that after the airplane landed at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh at Gate 25, and that whilst performing pre-flight maintenance procedures one of the maintenance workers noticed the presence of foreign matter stuck in the rear right landing gears of the airplane. Upon further inspection, the maintenance worker discovered the human remains of an individual who had tried to hide in the airplane’s landing gear during take-off from Beirut.
Following the instructions of Lebanese Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi, the Lebanese Civil Aviation authority contacted GACA and “Nasair” to inform them of the official report into this incident, and the results of the initial investigation into the matter. Lebanese Interior Minister Ziad Baroud announced that the Lebanese Justice Ministry and Public Prosecution were also involved in this investigation, and that this will look at a number of issues, including the runway and those responsible for guarding it, the air control tower, airport security, and the cargo and maintenance companies that are present on the ground.
GACA confirmed that the security authorities have looked into this incident, and that standard procedures are being followed, with the body first being transferred to the King Khalid International Airport hospital, before it was handed over to the Department of Forensic Medicine and the Riyadh Public Health Department where investigation are still underway to discover the cause of death and other details surrounding this incident.
For his part, a GACA official who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity confirmed that the King Khalid International Airport’s Department of Safety was conducting an investigation to discover the identity of the body. He also revealed that this is not the first incident of its kind, and that a similar incident took place in the past but with an airplane traveling from an Asian country.
GACA Director of Public Relations and Media Khalid al-Khaibari also confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the King Khalid International Airport’s Department of Safety was carrying out an investigation into this incident, and that this investigation is ongoing.
While an official at “Nasair” confirmed that the company was waiting for the final results of the investigation that is being carried out by the Saudi authorities, and that it would issue a detailed report on this incident following the end of the investigation.