Eleven-year-old Liam Corcoran managed to pass through border controls and ticket checks without documentation Tuesday and board a Jet2.com flight from Manchester, England, to Rome. He had no ticket, no passport and no family members with him on the flight. How did it happen? Authorities at Manchester Airport are still trying to figure that out.
It's an embarrassing incident for a nation just days away from hosting the Olympic Games. Several Olympic soccer teams will fly through Manchester Airport for matches at the famous Old Trafford stadium and, though the 11-year-old posed no security risk, how he got through security unnoticed remains a concern for airport and security authorities.
Manchester Airport spokesman John Greenway has said initial inquiries reveal the boy passed through both border control and ticket checks simply by closely tailing other families. The preteen stowaway was only discovered midway through the Rome-bound flight after several passengers raised concerns.
Flight attendants are expected to check each passenger's boarding pass before he or she enters the plane and take a head count before departure to check for any discrepancies. In both cases, they appear to have failed in their job.
UK-based, low-cost carrier Jet2.com said in a statement that it has launched a full investigation into what is a serious incident, and the staff involved have been suspended pending the outcome. Several staff members at Manchester Airport have also been suspended.
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The Transport Secretary has also launched an investigation into the serious breach of security.
I take any breach of security, very, very seriously, Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, told the BBC. So we are now investigating with Manchester Airport and, indeed the airline, to find out exactly what happened.
This is an unusual and serious breach, and we are keen to find out what has gone on, she added.
The airport, while embarrassed, emphasized the young boy did not pose a security risk.
He did go through full security screening. So he didn't present a threat to himself, to other passengers, to the aircraft, Manchester Airport Director of Communications Russell Craig told Sky TV.
Corcoran was reported missing Tuesday after he ran away from his 28-year-old mother at a shopping center just over a mile from their home. It remains unclear how he arrived at the airport, about two miles farther away.
Fellow passenger Sarah Swayne said the boy was very talkative on the flight.
[Corcoran] seemed quite unfazed by it all. He just sat there chatting away about how he'd been trying to run away from home, she told the Manchester Evening News. He seemed quite innocent really and I don't think it had sunk in how serious the situation was.
The young stowaway's 3,000-mile adventure to Fiumicino Airport in Rome -- and back -- ended Tuesday night when he was reunited with his family in Britain unharmed.