Haunting Photo Captured Of Australian Stowaway Who Fell From Airplane Wheel

We've all wanted to get out there and explore the world, but it seems that Keith Sapsford's will to travel was to have tragic consequences.

Haunting Photo Captured Of Australian Stowaway Who Fell From Airplane Wheel

Image: Reddit

We’ve heard some wild travel stories in our time — from the man who urinated all over business class to a Chinese time traveller waxing lyrical mid-flight — but this might just be one of the saddest and strangest to date: 14-year-old Keith Sapsford from Randwick, Sydney, lost his life in 1970 after attempting to travel to Tokyo as a wheel-well stowaway.

Having escaped the Roman Catholic school where his father had sent Keith for an apparently much-needed “reorientation of mindset” after it seemed that a recent round-the-world trip with family had done little to assuage Kieth’s insatiable thirst for travel, he packed his bags and headed towards the city’s major airport.

WATCH: Flight Attendant Survives 30,000 Feet Fall From Plane Without Parachute

What Is A Wheel-Well Stowaway?

A wheel-well stowaway is when a person attempts to secretly travel on an aeroplane by hiding in the vehicle’s landing gear, otherwise referred to as a ‘wheel bay’, ‘wheel well’, or ‘undercarriage’. You may be unsurprised to hear that no such attempts have been recorded as successful to date, with those that attempt the feat enduring a whole host of difficulties.

If they manage to survive the takeoff portion of the plane’s journey, which is highly unlikely in of itself, stowaways must then face the insurmountable issues of extremely low tmeproature and extremely high pressure when in the air; these can bring on hypothermia and hypoxia respectively, as well as massive hearing loss that is brought on by long exposure to the loud noise.

Unfortunately for Keith, he didn’t even make it past takeoff. When a landing gear retracts after takeoff, it leaves very little room for anything else in the compartment, crushing anything that gets in its way. Fortunately, this wasn’t to be Keith’s fate. Rather, he was flung from the gear almost immediately after takeoff before crashing down to earth 60 metres below; a minorly less horrific way to go.

Armando Socarras Ramirez suffered injuries after a similar accident as a stowaway while escaping communist Cuba. Image: The Guardian

The Miraculous Photograph

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this whole tale is the photograph itself. Captured completely by chance by an amateur photographer called John Gilpin, the image was actually a rather (un)happy accident. Gilpin had just been down at the airport testing out some lenses on his new camera when the event took place.

Even more shocking is that Gilpin hadn’t even noticed the boy falling from the plane as he took the photo and only came to notice it while developing negatives a whole week later. The picture stands as a sad, spooky testament to the boy’s urge to get away, no matter the cost.

Keith’s father, Charles Sapsford, recalls talking to Keith about the tragic death of a Spanish boy who had followed a similar path to the one Keithe would eventually take. He had attempted to board a flight leaving Madrid via its wheel well and flung from the plane on takeoff.

Ironically enough, Keith had refused to believe his father’s story, considering it to be a made-up ploy to distract Keith from his own adventures…