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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Teen Stowaway's Body Found Near Airport

Investigators believe that a teenage boy whose mangled body was found in the woods near Domodedovo Airport hid in the wheel well of a plane and plummeted to the ground as the plane descended toward the runway.

The body was found Friday by a man walking his dog some 10 to 12 kilometers from Domodedovo, within the airport's takeoff and landing zone, said Arkady Volochkov, a spokesman for investigators in the Vidnoye district of the Moscow region.

"The indications are that he fell from high up while the plane was landing," Volochkov said by telephone Monday. "The cause of death was hypothermia, so we're not even looking into the possibility that the plane might have been taking off. You can't freeze to death in the amount of time it takes for a plane to fly 10 or 12 kilometers."

Instead, Volochkov said, the boy climbed into the plane at some other airport -- which has yet to be determined -- and fell out when the plane opened its landing gear on descent.

It is not clear which airline the plane was affiliated with. More than 70 airlines use Domodedovo, which handles 15 million passengers annually.

The dead teenager has not yet been identified, but investigators believe he was 15 to 17 years old.

Darya Korshunova, a spokeswoman for Domodedovo Airport, said it would have been impossible for the boy to sneak into the plane at the airport. "The airport security service guarantees that people from outside cannot get on board planes," she said.

Korshunova declined to comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Transportation Ministry said nobody was available to comment on the case.

Investigators believe that the boy fell into the forest from a significant height because one of his legs was torn off and was found hanging from a birch tree several meters above the ground, Volochkov said.

The body is being kept in Vidnoye, a Moscow region town near Domodedovo, and investigators are trying to identify it. The task has been difficult because the boy, who has Central Asian features, did not have any identification papers on him, Volochkov said.

"We believe he is a Muslim because he is circumcised," he said.

The Tvoi Den tabloid speculated Monday that the boy might have been inspired by the widely publicized case of Andrei Shcherbakov, 15, who was reported last month to have suffered severe frostbite but survived a 1,300-kilometer flight from Perm to Moscow while hidden in the wheel well of a Boeing 737. Officials later cast doubt on the story.

Stowaways in plane wheel wells are not uncommon, but many do not survive the journey, either being crushed when the wheels retract or dying of temperatures that can reach minus 40 degrees Celsius.

One stowaway who did survive was Osama R.M. Shublaq, a 27-year-old Palestinian who hid in the wheel well of a plane during a 35-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Singapore earlier this month.

Most are not so lucky. In July, a body was discovered inside the wheel well of a United Airlines Boeing 747 that landed in San Francisco after a flight from Shanghai. In January, a body was found in an airplane wheel well on a Delta Air Lines flight that landed in Atlanta after a nine-hour flight from Dakar, Senegal.

A spokeswoman for flagship carrier Aeroflot said Monday that she could not provide figures for stowaways over the telephone and asked that a request be submitted in writing. Aeroflot does not use Domodedovo, flying instead from crosstown rival Sheremetyevo Airport.

In 1996, the body of an 18-year-old boy from Tver was found in the wheel well of an Aeroflot Airbus A310. Investigators said he had sneaked past Sheremetyevo security, got on the plane and froze to death shortly after takeoff. The body accompanied the plane on a round-trip journey to Rome before it was discovered back in Moscow.