How a 14-Year-Old Boy Fell to His Death From an Airliner
The tragic story of Keith Sapsford’s fate
Adventure, 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 adventure found himself making 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.
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.
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.
That is what he exactly did. Once on the tarmac of the airport, 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.
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 the surprisingly same time, photographer John Gilpin came to the airport just like most of his Sundays in order to take pictures of various aircraft. John was the person who took the infamous photo of Keith falling from the aircraft.
Agents who started a case concluded that if Keith were to not fall from the wheel compartment of the aircraft, he would have most likely died from the lack of oxygen within this compartment. There was also a high risk of the boy freezing to death during the flight or being crushed by the wheels as they would have fully retracted.
At the same time, Keith’s parents were looking all over the place as their son had been missing for 2 days. Later on that day, the police informed the parents about their missing son and how he had tragically died. 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 of a story about a Spanish boy who also died a few years earlier while hiding in a plane’s undercarriage.