Teen stowaway jumped airport fence 6 hours before plane’s takeoff

Map showing path from San Jose to Maui

(CNN) — The teen stowaway who survived a five-hour flight hidden in the plane’s wheel well is recovering in a Hawaii hospital, a state health official said.

Once he’s ready to go home to California, he’ll have access to counselors and psychologists, Santa Clara High School Principal Gregory Shelby told CNN affiliate KGO.

The quiet 15-year-old, who recently transferred to Santa Clara High, is now the talk of the school.

Emanuael Golla, a senior at Santa Clara High, said the boy was extremely shy. He told CNN he had just transferred to the school within the past few weeks.

But already he wanted to run away from home — apparently to see his mother in Somalia.

The stowaway’s family has been in seclusion at their Santa Clara home, where neighbors say they kept to themselves after moving in a few months ago.

The boy hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport shortly after 1 a.m., the dark of night shielding the runaway’s escape.

But the teen, who has not been publicly named, didn’t just breach the fence — he stayed on the grounds for six hours Sunday morning without getting caught, a government official said.

The boy just wanted to see his mother in Somalia, a law enforcement official said. But he had no clue which plane went where.

Eventually, he settled on a Hawaiian Airlines plane. Armed with nothing but a comb, he climbed into the jet’s wheel well and hanged on tight.

As the plane took off, the wheels came up — barely sparing the teen from a crushing impact.

It was just the first of several dangers that nearly took the boy’s life.

The temperature dropped well below zero. The oxygen levels diminished. By the time the plane ascended higher than the peak of Mount Everest, the stowaway passed out.

It wasn’t until an hour after the Boeing 767 landed in Maui that the boy emerged from the wheel well. The idea that he survived the flight seemed unbelievable.

The boy is now in the custody of Hawaii child welfare services workers, said Kayla Rosenfeld, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Human Services.

It’s quite possible he suffered permanent brain damage such as neurological issues, memory problems or a lower IQ, said Dr. Kenneth Stahl, a trauma surgeon at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital.

The teen also could have frostbite or a kidney injury because when the body freezes, particles of muscle enter the bloodstream and damage the kidneys, the doctor said.

By Holly Yan, Shimon Prokupecz and Mike Ahlers, CNN

CNN’s Mayra Cuevas and Dan Simon contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire
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