VIDEO, Photo of wheel well – FBI: Boy survives flight in wheel well
A 16-year-old boy stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui on Sunday, surviving the trip halfway across the Pacific Ocean unharmed despite frigid temperatures at 38,000 feet and a lack of oxygen, FBI and airline officials said.
FBI Special Agent 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 Kahului Airport with no identification.
“Kid’s lucky to be alive,” Simon said.
The boy was found and questioned by Kahului Airport workers around 11:30 a.m., Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz said. He said that the boy’s only possession was a comb for his hair.
Moniz said that the boy claimed to have gotten into an argument with his family and ran away from home by climbing into one of the back wheel wells of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45.
Simon said that security footage from the San Jose airport verified that the boy from Santa Clara, Calif., had hopped a fence to get to the Hawaiian Boeing 767 on Sunday morning.
The plane departed San Jose at 7:50 a.m. Sunday and landed at Kahului at 10:25 a.m.
After the flight landed on Maui, Simon said, the boy hopped down from the wheel well and started wandering around the airport grounds.
“He was unconscious for the lion’s share of the flight,” Simon said.
Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Alison Croyle said that airline personnel noticed the boy on the ramp after the flight arrived and immediately notified airport security.
“Our primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived,” Croyle said.
Transportation Security Administration officials on Maui conducted a security sweep of the plane with canine units “to clear that aircraft of any possible threat if there was one,” Moniz said.
The boy was in stable condition when workers found him, though a little hungry, Moniz said. He said that the boy was quiet but “very cooperative” with authorities.
Around 2 p.m., the teen was carted away on a stretcher outside a security checkpoint and taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center.
Simon said the boy was medically screened and found to be unharmed.
Hawaiian Airlines Flight 24 to Oakland, Calif., was delayed nearly three hours Sunday due to the incident. The flight was scheduled to leave Kahului at noon and finally departed at 2:51 p.m.
A male passenger who declined to be identified said that he was seated on the plane to Oakland with his family before he was notified of the delay. He said that flight attendants were told to disarm the doors and that the flight would be delayed 10 to 15 minutes.
The man said that he saw TSA officials with dogs checking the plane outside. About 30 minutes later passengers were told to exit the plane with their belongings.
The boy will not be charged and was referred to child protective services, Simon said.
* The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.