Tragic Story Behind of the Photo

29 August 2020, 09:14

Young Keith Sapsford, from Randwick in Sydney’s east, was “a wanderer”. Restless. Always on the move.

His parents had taken him on an overseas holiday to satisfy his lust for adventure, but it only made his travel bug worse, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 1970.

When he was 14, his parents sent him to Boys’ Town, a Catholic home for teenagers in the southern Sydney suburb of Engadine. After a couple of weeks at Boys’ Town, Keith ran away.

On February 22, 1970, three days after running away from Boys’ Town, Keith snuck onto the tarmac at Sydney Airport. He climbed up in the wheel compartment of a Douglas DC-8 bound for Tokyo and waited until the plane took off.

The shot was captured 50 years ago by amateur photographer John Gilpin. He accidentally captured the precise moment Keith fell about 46 metres from the plane as it took off.

Gilpin wasn’t even aware of the tragedy while it was happening. It wasn’t until a week later, when he was developing the photos, he saw the figure of a boy falling from the plane, feet-first, with his hands up near his head.

Keith died from falling when the door to the plane’s wheel compartment opened.


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