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DA: Teenager Likely Fell From Plane, Landed In Milton

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MILTON (CBS) — Following an extensive search in Milton Friday in which authorities recovered a pair of sneakers and a shirt, the Norfolk District Attorney says a teenager likely fell from a plane’s wheel well to his death.

16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale’s mangled body was found in Milton on November 15.

It took days to identify Tisdale, who was from Charlotte, NC, but finally a lunch pass in the teen’s pocket was able to provide the clues needed to ID the body.

The theory authorities say they are now working on is that Tisdale had been in the wheel well of a plane headed from Charlotte, NC to Logan Airport.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports.

District Attorney William Keating outlined the timeline of apparent events during a news conference Friday afternoon. He said Tisdale was last seen at 1 a.m. November 15 by a sibling at his home in North Carolina. At 6 a.m., when the family started to wake, they noticed he was not in the home.

map DA: Teenager Likely Fell From Plane, Landed In Milton

In a map released by District Attorney William Keating, the red dots indicate the flight path of a commercial plane flying from Charlotte, NC to Boston. The green dots are where police found sneakers. And the address is where Delvonte Tisdale's body was found. (credit: CBS)

Keating went on to say that a plane departing Charlotte and headed to Boston left North Carolina at 7 p.m. and was due to arrive at 8:55 p.m. It was at 9:30 p.m. that a group of college students found Tisdale’s body, which only had on grease-stained pants. Keating added that neighbors heard a loud crashing sound a short time before the discovery.

The area searched Friday was near Brierbrook Street and within the flight path of a plane flying from Charlotte, NC to Boston.

Thursday the State Police Air Wing flew over the flight path. Tisdale’s body was found within 20 feet of the flight path.

Keating said detectives went to North Carolina to do tests on planes that may have been involved in the incident. Forensic evidence found in the left wheel well of the plane includes “handprints visible and greasy areas and scuff marks in an area that accommodated a person,” said Keating. 

Tisdale was a ROTC student. Authorities say they do not know why he would have been in the plane’s wheel well.

“It appears more likely than not that Mr. Tisdale was able to breach airport security and hide in the wheel well of a commercial jetliner without being detected by airport security personnel,” said Keating. “These events have obvious safety ramifications.”

WBZ News Radio’s Lana Jones reports.


According to Massport spokesman Phil Orlandella, Massport head Tom Kinton asked employees to look into what planes may have been flying over the area the night Tisdale was found.

Keating, who was elected to Congress in November and will be headed to D.C. next month, said that with all of the attention paid to security for passengers to get onto planes, the findings in this case are “alarming.”

“When we do an investigation to determine the cause of death, and it leads us to information that creates such a great concern for air security and public safety, we’re compelled to share that,” he said. “If that was someone with a different motive, if that was a terrorist, that could be a bomb that’s planted on there undetected.”

The TSA said, “TSA will work with the airport, which is responsible for access control security, to conduct a thorough investigation based on the facts and information provided by law enforcement.”

According to the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, WBTV, airport officials there have not been in contact with investigators in Massachusetts. Haley Genrty, the Public Affairs Manager at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, added, “We now expect that the information released today will trigger a local investigation involving Charlotte Douglas, the TSA and the FAA.”

How Tisdale managed to become a stowaway or why he wanted to come to Boston remains unclear. Whether he even survived the flight is also unclear, but Keating says there was evidence of freezing in the wheel well.  He hoped both the airport, and the TSA would conduct an investigation.

WBZ-TV’s Jonathan Elias talks with travelers about security.

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