The teenager, whose name has not been released, is "resting
comfortably" at a hospital in Hawaii, Kayla Rosenfeld, spokeswoman
of the state's Department of Human Services, said in a statement.
The boy, who is from Santa Clara, California, is in the custody of
the department's Child Welfare Services division, and officials were
working to ensure his safe return home, she said.
He told investigators he was trying to travel to Somalia to see his
mother, a law enforcement official told CNN. A local CBS-affiliate
reported the boy was living with his father in Santa Clara, but his
mother lives in Somalia.
He ran away from home on Sunday and traveled as a stowaway in the
wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 on a flight of more
than five hours from San Jose International Airport to Kahului
Airport in Maui, the FBI said. He crept onto the tarmac in San Jose
under cover of darkness, San Jose police said.
The teen quickly lost consciousness as temperatures in the wheel
well sank as low as minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 62 degrees
Celsius), according to FBI special agent Tom Simon in Hawaii.
The FBI said the plane eventually reached an altitude of 38,000
feet, where oxygen is so scarce that survival is difficult.
The only way the teenager could have lived through such a journey
was for his brain to cool down enough to require only a low level of
oxygen, but not enough for his heart to stop beating, said Peter
Hackett, director of the Institute For Altitude Medicine in
"It's all a little hard to believe, but that's the
explanation," Hackett said.
[to top of second column]
Since 1947, 105 people worldwide have been found to have stowed away
on flights, and 80 of them died, according to the Federal Aviation
Administration. That represents a survival rate of less than 24
percent. The last known stowaway to walk away from such an ordeal
was in 2013 on a domestic flight in Nigeria.
The teenage stowaway to Hawaii randomly chose a plane to climb into
at the airport in San Jose, with no specific plan to make the
treacherous flight to Hawaii, Simon said.
No one answered the door at a home believed to be the teenager's
residence in Santa Clara. There has been conflicting information
about his age. Simon said he was 15, while Rosenfeld said her agency
has information showing him as 16.
If Hawaii officials do not determine the boy suffered any abuse or
neglect back home in California, the Santa Clara County Social
Services Agency would typically not become involved in the case,
said Stanley Lee, a spokesman for that agency.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles;
by Laila Kearney in Santa Clara, California; editing by Scott
Malone, Leslie Adler and Eric Walsh)
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