A man's body was discovered last night in the landing gear of a plane that arrived in Tokyo from New York, and authorities in both cities are trying to determine the identity of the individual, sources told NBCNewYork today.
The victim is believed to be a stowaway and it appears he froze to death or ran out of oxygen, sources told NBC New York. There was no immediate word on how he got into the landing gear or where he boarded the plane.
A source said that other than flying between JFK and Japan, the plane had only been in two other places in two months -- Lagos, Nigeria in December, and San Juan, Puerto Rico in January.
Law-enforcement sources said the stowaway was discovered with a cell phone in his pocket that authorities hope will provide clues to when and where he got on the aircraft.
Police in Japan said the man, who appeared to be black, was clad only in a long-sleeved, plaid shirt and jeans and had no identification on him. He had no visible injuries except frostbite and he may have died of hypothermia, officials said. The FBI is also taking part in the investigation.
The temperature in that part of the plane falls to about 58 degrees below zero during flight, officials said.
Police are investigating the case both as an accident and a possible crime, officials said. A Transportation Security Administration spokesman said it is mainly an airport's responsibility to secure planes on the ground.
“Airports are required to develop Airport Security Plans that lay out physical security measures, procedures for safeguarding access control and other protocols specific to the facilities and area around an individual airport," said the TSA's Jim Fotenos. "TSA reviews and approves these plans. TSA is working closely with the FBI and the Port Authority to review the incident and will take the appropriate action necessary.”
Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said the airline is cooperating with authorities. She added that the stowaway was not wearing a Delta uniform.
Elliott said the aircraft was released early today by investigators in Tokyo and placed back into service for a flight to New York that arrived at JFK airport at 3:02 p.m. Monday.