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Stowaway Teen Miraculously Survives 5 Hours San Jose to Hawaii Flight in Plane's Wheel Well

( [email protected] ) Apr 21, 2014 01:27 PM EDT
FBI calls it a miracle, Doctor's thank God as boy survives extreme cold and lack of oxygen on flight across Pacific.
A 16-year-old boy who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui, on stretcher at center, is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii Sunday afternoon, April 20, 2014. Chris Sugidono, AP

In what officals are describing as miraculous,  a 16-year runaway boy stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from California to Hawaii Sunday, surviving the journey across the Pacific Ocean despite extremely cold temperatures at nearly 40,000 feet, and a lack of oxygen, officials said.

FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu told The Associated Press on Sunday night that the boy was questioned by the FBI after being discovered on the tarmac at the Maui airport with no identification.

"How he survived I don't know," Simon, told the LA Times. "It's a miracle."

A spokesman for Hawaiian Airlines told BBC news that airline staff noticed the boy after the plane landed on Sunday morning.

He was questioned by the FBI and given a medical screening and was said to be in a stable condition.

The boy is reported to have jumped a fence at San Jose airport to get to the plane.

"Our primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived,'' a spokeswoman for Hawaiian Airlines said.

Simon said security footage from the San Jose airport verified that the boy from Santa Clara, Calif., hopped a fence to get to Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 on Sunday morning. The child had run away from his family after an argument, Simon said. Simon said when the flight landed in Maui, the boy jumped from the wheel well and started wandering around the airport grounds.

Doctors believe his heart beat only a few times per minute for most of the trip.

"He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight," Simon said. The flight lasted about 5½ hours.

"Doesn't even remember the flight," Simon said. "It's amazing he survived that."

The young man's adventure startled some leaders responsible for security at airports.  Congressman, and Homeland Security committee member Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who represents the San Francisco Bay Area's eastern cities and suburbs, wondered how the teen could have snuck onto the airfield at San Jose so easily.

"I have long been concerned about security at our airport perimeters. #Stowaway teen demonstrates vulnerabilities that need to be addressed," tweeted Rep. Swalwell.

A Mineta San Jose International Airport spokeswoman said airport police were working with the FBI and the Transportation Security Agency to review security at the facility as part of an investigation.

"Our concern is with this young boy and his family. Thank God he survived and we hope his health is OK," spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes told the AP.

According to the FBI, The boy was released to child protective services and not charged with a crime.

Others stowing away in wheel wells have died, including a 16-year-old killed after stowing away aboard a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston in 2010 and a man who fell onto a suburban London street on a flight from Angola in 2012.