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Stowaway Who Survived 5,600 Mile Flight From Africa To London Now Lives In Liverpool

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Stowaway Who Survived 5,600 Mile Flight From Africa To London Now Lives In Liverpool

A stowaway who managed to survive a 5,659 mile, 11 hour flight from South Africa to London now lives in the UK having claimed asylum.

Themba Cabeka, 30, was in a coma for months after clinging on to the undercarriage of the jumbo jet in temperatures as low as -60 degrees. When he woke, he was told the devastating news that the friend who he came with tragically fell 5000ft from the plane to his death.

Cabeka's identity is revealed for the first time in a Channel 4 documentary, The Man Who Fell From The Sky, which will air tonight.


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Rich Bentley tracked Cabeka, now known as Justin down in Liverpool. Credit: Channel 4/Postcard Productions
Rich Bentley tracked Cabeka, now known as Justin down in Liverpool. Credit: Channel 4/Postcard Productions

Having escaped the poverty of their South African camp site, Cabeka and his friend Carlito Vale made the journey by sneaking into the wheel arch of a Boeing 747-400 in June 2015.

Just before landing, Vale fell from the British Airways flight and was found in the air-con unit of an office block, just six miles from Heathrow.

Cabeka said: "When the plane was flying, I could see the ground, I could see the cars, I could see small people. After a little time, I passed out through lack of oxygen. The last thing I remember just after the plane took off was Carlito saying to me: 'Yeah, we've made it'."

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That was the last time he spoke to him. After sustaining injuries when the plane landed at Heathrow, to this day he still needs crutches to help him walk. He now lives in a one-bedroom flat in Liverpool.

Doctors believe he managed to survive because the cold temperatures meant that he was in a state of 'suspended animation'. This means that the organs are put into 'standby mode' meaning they don't need as much oxygen and damage is limited.

Cabeka said: "I was lucky not to hurt my head. I had two burn marks on my arm, but it is OK now because I had surgery. But something is still wrong with my leg. I'm hoping they can sort it out."

He said that his background left him emotionally damaged, having not known his parents and almost being killed by his township for the house he lived in, leaving him homeless.

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Cabeka was granted leave to remain but doesn't elaborate on what grounds.

He said: "When I was applying as an asylum-seeker, I went through the process and was accepted."

"I'm now waiting to get a passport. It takes five years to get a British passport and then I will be able to fly on a plane."

He joked: "I will be a Scouser then."

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The Man Who Fell From The Sky is on Channel 4 tomorrow (4 Jan) at 10pm

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: UK News

Amelia Ward
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