Teen stowaway remains hospitalized in Hawaii

A 15-year-old Santa Clara boy remains hospitalized after surviving a flight to Maui while tucked in a plane's wheel well.
April 22, 2014 11:20:36 PM PDT
There are new reports that the teenager who stowed away on a flight from San Jose to Hawaii may have been hiding at the airport for more than six hours before the plane took off. That's raising new concerns about security at Mineta San Jose International Airport.

The 15-year-old stowaway is still hospitalized in Hawaii. He survived sub-zero temperatures and oxygen deprivation in the wheel well of a jet flying from San Jose to Maui on Easter Sunday.

The teenager's family lives in a middle class neighborhood in Santa Clara. It appears they're home, but they're not talking to reporters. We've learned more about the stowaway from his high school classmates. And we're told he spent all night undetected around the Hawaii-bound plane.

The story of the stowaway is the talk of Santa Clara High School, where a classmate confirms the 15-year-old is a student there, who enrolled only a few months ago.

"He was kind of shy," said the teen's friend Emanuael Golla. "You know, he really didn't speak that much. But we were all surprised about what happened. We didn't really think it was him, but we're happy to know that he's all right."

We've learned that the Santa Clara teenager spent six hours on the grounds at Mineta San Jose International Airport after breaching security by climbing over a fence. Airport officials acknowledge there is video of a person lurking around the Hawaiian Airlines jetliner early Easter morning, but they did not see the video until after the teen reached Hawaii.

An airport official in Hawaii described the state of the teen when he was first discovered, "He hung from the wheel well and then he fell to the ground and regained some strength and stood up and started walking to the front of the aircraft," said Maui Airport Manager Marvin Moniz.

Moniz told ABC that he talked to the stowaway, learning that he was angry about an argument he had had with his father and stepmother and wanted to see his mother, whom he had not seen since he was two-years-old.

Hawaiian media reports he was trying to get to relatives in Africa.

The teenager, seen in a photo with an ambulance crew on Sunday, was wearing a hoodie, heavy jeans, and jogging shoes.

Other students at Santa Clara High say the stowaway's miraculous survival is the talk of the school.

"Basically we were just like talking about how he did it, what he was probably going through, how, and what was he thinking," student Samantha Hodges said. "Cause that's pretty crazy."

"I'd try to get a ticket," student Robert Hodges said. "I wouldn't try to stow away in a wheel well. It just seems too dangerous for me."

Santa Clara High School Principal Gregory Shelby will only confirm the teen is a student in the district. And says the district is ready for his return.

"We can't release any confidential information about students, but he is going to be provided support by counselors and psychologists upon his return to the district," Shelby said.

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.

"Very quiet, very quiet, very neighborly," said Scott McGinn.

The teenager is resting in a hospital in Hawaii. No word yet when he will return to the mainland.

Bay Area lawmaker demands airport security review

An East Bay congressman is demanding an airport security investigation after a teen managed stowed away in a plane's wheel well.

A source tells ABC News that the teen jumped an airport fence in San Jose shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday and climbed into a plane that took off just before 8 a.m. He was on the airport grounds, undetected, for more than six hours.

The TSA plays a major role in airport security, but its operations are generally inside the terminals, specifically at the passenger checkpoints.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, who represents the East Bay, is a member of the committee on Homeland Security.

"We protect the terminal and employee entrances," said Rep. Swalwell, D-Calif. "However, 95 percent of the airports can be entered through its perimeters, its exterior fences. That is the largest part of the airport."

Major airports have multiple lawyers of security that includes fences and security cameras as well as patrols.

But perhaps the most important security measures are the eyes and ears of the people on the ground.

Doug Yakel is the spokesman at San Francisco International Airport.

"Any individual who's issued an airport badge, part of their responsibility is what we call to challenge," Yakel explains. "And that is anything that doesn't look right, anything that doesn't belong needs to be challenged."

For the most part, the security measures seem to be working. But Swalwell points out that the San Jose stowaway incident is the fourth security breach of an airport perimeter in the past five years. And he's demanding that the General Accounting Office conduct an audit of perimeter security at all of the country's airports.

"What we need to do is take a look at these airports," he said. "Start with the ones that have been breached, but look across the country and see if they are more porous than they should be. But also see what is the culture on the ground among employees."

Yakel says that's a good idea.

"Any security procedure needs continual evaluation," he said. "It always gets better with the addition of more information."

The last GAO audit of airport perimeters was conducted five years ago.

KGO-TV San Francisco, CA contributed to this report.


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