Stowaway teen had no clue he was in Hawaii

2014-04-24 08:44
A 15-year-old boy, seen sitting on a stretcher center, who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii. (The Maui News/Chris Sugidono, AFP)

A 15-year-old boy, seen sitting on a stretcher center, who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii. (The Maui News/Chris Sugidono, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Honolulu - Long flights can leave anyone a little unsteady, but a teenager who defied the odds, surviving a flight from California to Hawaii tucked in a jetliner's wheel well, was disoriented, thirsty and could barely walk after the freezing, low-pressure ordeal, airport officials said on Wednesday.

Security video of his arrival shows the 15-year-old boy dangling his feet for about 15 seconds from the wheel well before jumping about 3m to the ground, landing on his feet and immediately collapsing on Sunday morning, Maui District Airport Manager Marvin Moniz said.

Staggering toward the front of the plane, the soft-spoken boy in a San Francisco Giants hoodie asked a ramp agent for a drink of water, setting in motion federal and local law enforcement investigations, national calls for better airport security and a flurry of speculation about how anyone could survive such a perilous trip.

Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, who said he is the boy's father, told Voice of America on Wednesday that his son - who is still hospitalised in Honolulu - missed Africa, where they used to live, and had been struggling in school.

Dangerous trip

Abdi said he learned of the perilous journey on Sunday when he got a call from police in Hawaii, but he couldn't understand how he got to Maui and asked them to contact the San Jose Police Department.

"When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy," Abdi said.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Abdi, who airport officials say drives a taxi.

After the boy was discovered in Maui, FBI and Transportation Security Administration investigators questioned him and fed him like a local with teriyaki meatballs and rice from an airport restaurant and a box of Maui macadamia nut cookies.

The teen, whose name has not been released, said he had been in an argument at home, went to the airport, and got onto the first plane he came to.

"He didn't realise he was in Maui - not at all," Moniz said.

The boy told officials he evaded what was supposed to be a multi-layered airport security system in San Jose by climbing a fence.

Security questioned

That hasn't surprised airport security experts, who say that for all the tens of billions of dollars the nation has spent screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes parked on the tarmac.

"No system is foolproof," said San Jose International Airport aviation director Kim Aguirre. "Certainly as we learn more, if we see any gaping holes, we will work to fill them."

Aguirre said a perimeter search found no holes or crawl spaces in the barbed-wire fence surrounding the 424.93-hectare airport.

Santa Clara High School Principal Gregory Shelby sent a note on Tuesday to staff saying the teen has been in the US for about four years, speaks English as his second language and had transferred into the district five weeks earlier, according to Jennifer Dericco, a spokesperson for the Santa Clara Unified School District.

Aviation security experts say San Jose is hardly alone when it comes to weaknesses in securing its airfield.

"What happened in San Jose can happen as we speak at other airports, because nobody can watch all these monitors" that feed video from around the airport, said Rafi Ron, former head of security at Tel Aviv, Israel airport.

That the teen survived is remarkable. At a cruising altitude of 11 582m, temperatures would have been well below zero and the air so starved of oxygen that he likely passed out. In response, his body could have entered a hibernation-like state, experts say.

The TSA said it has spent $80bn on aviation security since its inception shortly after the 9/11 attacks. That does not include perimeter security.

"We were investing all our resources in the front door, which were the passengers and their bags," Ron said. "And we left the back door open."

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  travel  |  aviation  |  air
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may be bothering you. A flooded mind and impulsive reactions are not a good combination as you are not thinking clearly....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.