The Somali mother of a teen stowaway who survived a flight from California to Hawaii in the plane's wheel well said in a radio interview from a refugee camp in Ethiopia that she had not been able to speak to her son for years before his risky adventure.
The boy sneaked into the wheel compartment of a Boeing 767 that took off on Sunday from San Jose International Airport, becoming one of only a fraction of stowaways to emerge alive after such a treacherous trip. He told investigators he wanted to go to Africa to see his mother, according to CNN.
The mother, Ubah Mohamed Abdulle, fled Somalia and lives in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, where she told Voice of America that she was divorced from the boy's father, who lives in Santa Clara with the teenager and two of his siblings.
Abdulle said she has been completely cut off from her children since 2006 and wants to be reunited with them in the United States.
"They were even told that I was dead, but they recently found out that I was alive," she told the broadcast service in a report published on Friday.
"I felt bad that he risked his life," she said. "I was told that he did this because of me."
In a Voice of America interview this week, the boy's father identified him as Yahya Abdi, and said his son was longing for his native Africa.
FBI special agent Tom Simon earlier this week declined to comment on the possibility the teenager was trying to reach Africa. He said the boy randomly chose a Maui-bound Hawaiian Airlines jet and climbed into its wheel well, passing out soon after take-off in freezing temperatures and with low oxygen levels during the five-and-a-half hour flight.
The teen remained in a Hawaii hospital on Friday in protective custody of child welfare authorities, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Human Services, Kayla Rosenfeld, said in an email. She did not release details on his condition.
As The Christian Science Monitor reported, most attempts at hitching a ride in aircraft wheel wells don't end well. Out of 105 known stowaway attempts since 1947, only 25 people have survived, according to the Federal Aviation Administration
The boy's father, Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, told Voice of America on Wednesday the family anticipated that the boy would soon be returned home to California.
Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi could not be reached for comment. (Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)