WASHINGTON — A body appearing to be that of an African teen was found Sunday in the landing gear bay of an Air Force C-130J at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
The boy, described as an adolescent black male, was hidden in a spot above the rear landing gear where routine pre- or post-flight inspections would not have found him, Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
A defense official speaking anonymously told NBC News that the boy is believed to have entered the plane in Mali. Kirby said he could not confirm that report.
“The aircraft had just returned from supporting Africa Command operations with stops in a few countries,” he said. “At this point it is unknown where or when the deceased entered the landing gear wheel well.”
The plane is assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein.
American and German emergency responders removed the body and transported it to a German facility for autopsy. The boy’s body was free of communicable diseases, Kirby said. The cause of death remains under investigation.
The investigation will include a look at security measures on the ground wherever the boy entered the cargo aircraft, Kirby said.
“In some of the airfields where these aircraft have to operate, by nature of the jobs we’re doing and the locations that they’re flying in and out of, that airport security and airfield security isn’t exactly in every case up to the same standard that we observe here in the United States,” he said.