Wheel Well Flight: Teen’s ‘Miraculous’ SurvivalBy: Pam Wright - April 21, 2014
Authorities are calling a 16-year-old teen’s survival from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet ‘miraculous.’
The Santa Clara youth jumped a fence Sunday and climbed into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 jet without being detected, according to Security video from San Jose’s Mineta International Airport.
The ballsy kid emerged from the wheel well in Hawaii unharmed despite temperatures that may have reached 80 degrees below zero and a serious lack of oxygen.
The jet reached an altitude of 38,000 feet, an FBI official said.
“How he survived I don’t know,” said Tom Simon, an FBI spokesman based in Honolulu. “It’s a miracle.”
“He was unconscious for the lion’s share of the flight,” said Simon. “I imagine he must have blacked out at about 10,000 feet. The air is pretty thin up there.”
The plane landed at Maui’s Kahului Airport at 10:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, but Simon said the teen did not regain consciousness for an additional hour following the five and a half hour flight.
He climbed out from the wheel well once he woke up and still went undetected until Hawaiian Airlines personnel noticed the teen on a ramp and notified security, airline spokeswoman Alison Croyle said in a statement released Sunday night.
“Our primary concern now is the well being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived,” the statement said.
The teen – who said he ran away from home after an argument – was not charged in the incident and was turned over to the Hawaiian Department of Human Services after receiving medical attention.
Rosemary Barnes, a spokeswoman at the San Jose airport, said the FBI and the Transportation Security Administration were investigating how the teen breached security and made it onto the plane and said the airport “meets and exceeds” all federal security requirements as mandated by the TSA.
“Despite this, no system is 100 percent, and it is possible to scale an airport perimeter fence line, especially under cover of darkness, and remain undetected, and it appears this is what this teenager did,” Barnes said.
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin said the incident raises some troubling concerns.
“I’m interested, as a member of the Homeland Security committee, in learning about what happened at this airport, what does perimeter security look like at all of our commercial airports across the country and is there more that we could be doing to make sure that somebody who would want to do harm does not have unfettered or ease of access onto the runway.”
Officials did not release the stowaway‘s name because he is a minor.
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