The body of a male adolescent was found Sunday night in the wheel-well of a U.S. Air Force C-130 at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany after the plane had arrived from a flight that originated in Africa, a U.S. official confirmed today.
The body was found trapped in a compartment above the aircraft’s rear landing gear, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said.
The C-130 aircraft was on an eight-day journey, originating in Senegal and then stopping in Mali, Chad, Tunisia and Italy before arriving at Ramstein, according to Chief Master Sgt. Ellen Schirmer, a spokeswoman at Ramstein for the 86th Airlift Wing.
It’s unclear whether this child was a stowaway or where the child had boarded the plane, military officials said.
The boy's body was found as maintenance crews conducted a thorough post-flight check typical of long flights, Kirby said.
"The cause of death as well the other circumstances surrounding this incident remain under investigation," Kirby said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the young man’s family."
Asked how a boy could have potentially sneaked onto the plane, Kirby noted that security measure at various airfields are not uniform.
“The aircraft is a rugged aircraft designed to operate in austere locations. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody that the security at some of these fields is not going to be at the same level," he said. “We shouldn’t expect that the security environment in every location that these aircraft operate in will be at the same high standard.”
There was a concern about communicable diseases so when the German and American teams removed the body, they more protective clothing, military officials said.
Subsequent tests were negative for communicable diseases, Kirby said.
German authorities will have the lead in the investigation, military officials said. The U.S. Air Force is cooperating.