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Stowaway in Cargo Box

When Charles McKinley, a 25-year-old shipping clerk in a New York warehouse, found himself in trouble with the law, he couldn't get his mind off heading for home to where his parents lived in suburban Dallas. He thought he could save himself money by shipping himself home in an airline cargo crate, so that is what he did.

On Friday, September 5, 2003, after filling out paperwork describing the cargo as clothes and a computer, McKinley called for a courier service and crawled inside the crate. The 42" by 36" by 15" crate containing McKinley's 5'8", 170-pound body, was taken by truck from New York's Kennedy Airport. According to the FBI, it was then taken to New Jersey before being loaded onto a pressurized, heated cargo plane operated by Kitty Hawk Cargo. The crate then was flown from Newark, New Jersey, to Niagara Falls, New York, before being taken to the carrier's hub in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and eventually on to Dallas.

When the crate was eventually delivered to the McKinley home in De Soto, Texas, on Saturday, he broke out of the box, startling his parents and the delivery man.

Without food or water on the 15-hour journey, the stowaway had taken a huge risk. The crate could have been handled roughly, breaking his bones. He had no place to relieve himself. According to Richard G. Phillips, chief executive of Pilot Air Freight, it was fortunate McKinley's box was carried in the pressurized, heated cabins, because it could just as easily have been placed in the lower, unpressurized holds.

"He could easily have died," Phillips told authorities. "What is more, the freight cost—billed to McKinley's employer—was $550. At that rate, he could have flown first-class."

Obviously this man did not give much forethought to his trip, and it could have cost him everything. In the same way, many people give little forethought to their trip into eternity.

UPDATE: For his actions, McKinley was fined $1,500 and placed on probation. It could have been worse: he could have received a $100,000 fine and one year in prison. Citation: Kevin A. Miller, Wheaton, Illinois; source: WTMX-FM (2-5-04)

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