Teenage Stowaway Hitches Ride From California to Hawaii in Jet's Wheel Well, Which Is Miraculous, Apparently
In spite of sub-zero temperatures, and altitudes higher than those of Mt. Everest, a teenage stowaway survived a flight from California to Hawaii hidden in the wheel well of a plane on Sunday. The 16-year-old runaway — who was somehow completely unscathed — claims to have lost consciousness after crawling into the jet's wheel well, only waking up an hour after the Boeing 767 landed in Maui, baffling the crew and prompting analysts to call the feat nothing short of "miraculous."The teenager, who was questioned by the FBI soon after being discovered, apparently ran away from his home in Santa Clara Sunday morning, following an argument with his parents. Having made his way to San Jose International Airport, he hopped a fence and made his way onto Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 early on Sunday. He crawled into the wheel well — which is that tiny compartment underneath the jet that holds the wheels of the plane's retractable landing gear (gulp) — and passed out as soon as the flight took off. Which is probably pretty lucky — the five hour trip halfway across the Pacific Ocean involved little to no oxygen, altitudes that reached 38,000 feet and freezing temperatures. "The odds of a person surviving that long of a flight at that altitude are very remote, actually," an airline analyst told KHON. "I mean, you are talking about altitudes that are well above the altitude of Mt. Everest. And temperatures that can reach 40 degrees below zero."
"For somebody to survive multiple hours with that lack of oxygen and that cold is just miraculous. I've never heard of anything like that before," he added.
The teenager reportedly regained consciousness roughly an hour after the jet landed at Kahului Airport in Maui, walking out onto the tarmac to a reportedly "dumbfounded" ground crew. He was taken to a local hospital shortly thereafter, examined, and found to be healthy. "[He] doesn't even remember the flight," said FBI Special Agent Tom Simon. "It's amazing he survived that."
He was interrogated but wasn't charged with a crime, instead being released to child protective services. But though concern seems to be the main emotion directed at the stowaway, the airline, on the other hand, is facing some uncomfortable questions. Already, Rep. Eric Swalwell, who serves on the Homeland Security committee, has tweeted his concern over the "vulnerabilities" of airport perimeters.
In spite of this, the airline seems to be focusing on the teenager. "Our primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived," Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement Sunday.