A U.S. registered cargo plane has been impounded at an airport in Zimbabwe after workers reportedly found a dead body inside. State-run newspaper The Herald reports the MD-11 trijet is being held at Harare International Airport after workers spotted blood dripping from the aircraft during a routine fuel stop. Inside, they found a dead body and "millions" of South African rand.
The plane, owned by Florida-based Western Global Airlines, is understood to have been transporting large sums of cash from Munich in Germany via Belgium and Nigeria and was bound for the seaside town of Durban in South Africa when it stopped in Harare for refueling.
“The jet crew was questioned and they said they hit a bird in the air. But then a search was made and the body of an adult male fell out,” a source told African News Agency.
A spokesman for the South African Reserve Bank suggested the body belonged to a “stowaway” and expressed the hope its money would be released soon.
One million South African rand converts to roughly $63,000 U.S.
Officials can explain the money, as the plane was reportedly flying from Germany to South Africa carrying new rand notes to the South African Reserve Bank. It's the dead body officials are still investigating.
SABC reports South Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe is speculating the body might be that of a stowaway.
"It was reportedly found in the cargo section, which is almost on the underbelly of the plane," an SABC reporter said.
Local reports said four crew members had been arrested: two Americans, a Pakistani and a South African. An airport source told The Telegraph that two couriers had remained on the plane since the discovery on Sunday, reluctant to leave its valuable cargo.
Images circulated on social media showed a charred body protruding from a flap on the outside of the aircraft. Officials with face masks stand to one side on a hydraulic platform and Zimbabwe Republic Police tape is visible. A Zimbabwean aviation source told The Telegraph the body fell out of the flap when security staff began searching for the source of the blood.
Pradeep Maharaj, Group Executive for the South African Reserve Bank's currency operations, would not confirm whether SARB employees were on the craft.
“The South African Reserve Bank is aware of an aircraft carrying a SARB consignment that stopped in Harare and was detained following the discovery of an unidentified body that is presumed to be a stowaway on the aircraft,” he said in a statement.
“The SARB is working with the relevant authorities to ensure that the cargo is released and transported to South Africa.”