An immigrant who hid in the wheel of a plane in a desperate bid to reach Britain woke up to find his pal had fallen to their death on the approach to Heathrow.
Themba Cabeka experienced temperatures of -60C and fell partially unconscious due to lack of oxygen during the harrowing 8,000 mile trip from Johannesburg, South Africa.
The 31-year-old stowaway was almost killed himself after being thrown on the London airport’s runaway on landing – resulting in his leg having to be amputated.
He was then placed in a coma for six months, reports MyLondon.
Themba fled crime-ridden Johannesburg in June 2015 along with friend Carlito Vale, dreaming of a better life after sleeping rough for five years.
Neither could afford to pay for a flight of visa to the UK and after reading up on aeroplane design, Themba decided the best place to hide would be the space around the wheels.
The pair jumped over a fence at the airport and climbed into the wheel compartment of a plane being prepped for flight.
Once inside they were left “clinging onto two metal bars inside the cavity”.
“I was not afraid of falling, because I had faith,” said Themba.
During the flight, the metal bars became so searingly hot he was left with permanent burns.
But in the other extreme, as temperatures plummeted, he only had two pairs of jeans and three jackets to keep him warm.
Once the wheel compartments had closed, both stowaways found themselves in pitch black darkness for hours, with the deafening noise of engines to listen to, but Themba said he remained “relaxed”.
“I fell asleep because of the lack of oxygen, that’s why I didn’t see my friend when he fell out,” he said.
Carlito’s body was found on a roof below the Heathrow flight path.
Recalling their last conversation, Themba said: “Carlito said ‘we made it’. I said ‘Of course we made it, man.’
“Those were the last words I heard from him, because I passed out.”
He admitted he thinks about their last conversation daily, and that he struggles to look in the mirror as a result.
“Unfortunately, he’s not here, so I’m by myself now. They still haunt me but I have to keep on going.
“Every time I face the mirror it feels like I’m missing something.
“Everything is different, this isn’t the way it was supposed to go, I think about him so much.”
Themba only woke up when his body bounced off the tarmac, having fallen out just before the plane reached the runway.
“I fell out onto the runway and my leg snapped,” he said.
Lying on the floor, broken and barely conscious, Themba was then apprehended.
He said: “I woke up and all I saw was two people shouting ‘He jumped out of the plane!’. They came and arrested me, and took me to the hospital.
“And from there, because of the lack of oxygen and cold from the flight, I passed out in a coma for six months.”
A short while after waking up from the coma, he was detained at the immigration detention centre for another six months.
And despite his perilous journey, he was denied asylum but was granted right to remain.
He spent a night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets, before staying at a homeless shelter in Elephant and Castle.
He was then moved to Liverpool, but claims there were drink and drug paraphernalia everywhere and so he fled and roamed the streets again.
Gabriel Frood, 21, from Crystal Palace, who was studying in Liverpool at the time, saw him sitting in the cold, and stopped for a conversation.
He took Themba in and set up a GoFundMe, which has already raised £9,000 of a £50,000 target.
Themba insists that despite the trauma, his journey was worth it, but he wouldn’t repeat his trip.
“Now it seems like everything’s changed, and things are different to what they were before [in South Africa],” he said.
Themba is still staying with Gabriel until he finds a more suitable accommodation.
He added: “I’m just trying to figure my way out to get something better for myself.”