Dulles Workers Spot Stowaway From Ethiopia in Plane's Baggage Compartment

Federal authorities say they've discovered a stowaway who arrived at Dulles International Airport in the cargo hold of a flight from Ethiopia. Video by AP
By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 8, 2009

A stowaway who apparently hid aboard a flight from Ethiopia to Washington was found in the plane's baggage hold by workers at Dulles International Airport, authorities said last night.

As baggage handlers unloaded the Ethiopian Airlines flight Saturday morning, they spotted an arm protruding from between luggage pallets, officials said.

At that point, the workers "went in" to the hold of the Boeing 767 and found the stowaway, who was dehydrated and exhausted, said Customs and Border Protection spokesman Steve Sapp.

After what officials called an extremely rare incident, the man was taken into federal custody. But after checking databases, Sapp said, officials decided that the man presented no threat.

"He was just a gentleman who tried to travel to the United States . . . illegally," Sapp said.

The flight, which originated in Addis Ababa, made a stop in Rome before flying on to Dulles. But Sapp said authorities are "pretty sure he got on in Ethiopia" and was probably in the luggage compartment "the whole time."

The man, who was not named but was described as 36 or 37 years old, was taken by airport ambulance to a hospital for treatment and then returned to the airport. He remained in federal custody last night in preparation for being sent back to Ethiopia.

In describing attempts to enter the United States illegally, Sapp said, arrivals by sea are far more common.

"We don't normally see too many people stow away on airplanes," he said.

Security precautions at airports are intended to prevent unauthorized persons from access to airliners.

In the Saturday incident, although the man reached this country, "the process worked," because he was quickly picked up, Sapp said.

In January 2008, two men stowed away on another Ethiopian Airlines flight and were found at Dulles after an inspection. A news report said they had probably hidden in the cabin ceiling.

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