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Teen Survives Five-Hour Flight in Jet's Wheel Well

Apr 21, 2014 04:48 PM EDT
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A 16-year-old boy survived a harrowing five-hour journey over the Pacific Ocean after climbing into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet flying from California to Hawaii on Sunday.
(Photo : Flickr)

A 16-year-old boy survived a harrowing five-hour journey over the Pacific Ocean after climbing into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet flying from California to Hawaii on Sunday.

Combating freezing temperatures and a lack of oxygen on a flight that reached an altitude of 38,000 feet, the unidentified minor came out unscathed.

"How he survived I don't know," Tom Simon, an FBI spokesman based in Honolulu, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's a miracle."

Security video from San Jose's Mineta International Airport verified that the Santa Clara youth hopped a fence undetected to climb aboard Flight 45 after reportedly running away from home. At some point during the flight he lost consciousness.

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 another hour. Hawaiian Airlines personnel noticed the boy wandering aimlessly on the airport tarmac. He had nothing but a comb with him.

"Our primary concern now is the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived," the statement said.

The minor was determined to be unharmed following a thorough medical examination.

"I understand everybody's skepticism but his story checks out," Simon told USA TODAY.

This is not the first time this has happened. In 2000, Fidel Maruhi survived as a stowaway after hitching a ride in a wheel well from Tahiti to Los Angeles. The 4,000-mile trip lasted more than seven hours and the temperature dropped to nearly -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-45 degrees Celsius).

Stories like these are causing some to seriously question airport security measures.

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

There was no indication that the stowaway posed a threat to the airline, but authorities are debating whether to file criminal charges.

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