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Teen stowaway: Video confirms his amazing story

Teen stowaway survived a 5 1/2 hour flight from California to Hawaii. But some questioned the boy's story, since few have survived such a flight. A newly released video confirms his account.

The security footage looks unassuming at first: a Hawaiian Airlines jet parked at a gate at the Maui airport under overcast skies, and workers going through their regular routine. Then, the 15-year-old's legs dangle briefly from the plane's belly and he drops to the concrete.

Hawaii transportation officials released video Tuesday of a California teen hopping from a jet's wheel well April 20 after stowing away for a 5½-hour flight.

The video largely confirms previous accounts given by FBI and airport officials of Yahya Abdi's seemingly unbelievable story: that he ran away from home, hopped a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport and climbed into the wheel well of the closest plane.

Abdi survived the flight at 35,000 feet despite low oxygen and freezing temperatures.

The six minutes of security footage that the Hawaii Department of Transportation released show Abdi lowering himself from the Boeing 767 and jumping to the ground.

He sits on the concrete for 13 seconds, then gets up and slowly walks toward the front of the plane. He wobbles slightly as he walks, pausing briefly a few times in the roughly 40 seconds it takes him to get under the passageway connecting the front of the airplane with the terminal.

Abdi walks up to an airport worker driving a cart, and the two talk for about three minutes before walking away together. The boy stays standing the whole time.

Hawaii Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the footage was released after the state attorney general's office reviewed media requests.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported, few have survived traveling in an aircraft wheel well at this altitude.

The Hawaiian Airlines flight reached 38,000 feet and was 5-1/2 hours long. At such altitudes, oxygen levels are low and temperatures can reach minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Authorities say the boy was passed out for most of the flight and awoke an hour after landing. But they said he was unharmed.

ABC News cites a Federal Aviation Administration report that estimates that the chances of surviving as a wheel-well stowaway on a commercial aircraft are about 24 percent. Radiant heat from the plane's hydraulics as well as the wheels themselves can help warm the compartment, the FAA notes. And the plane's gradual ascent and descent allow the body to adjust to the extremes of cold, lack of oxygen, and low pressure.

San Jose, California, police spokesman Albert Morales said the Somali immigrant flew back to California over the weekend and was being cared for by Santa Clara County Child Protective Services.

Morales said in a statement Tuesday that authorities plan to work with the boy's attorney to set up an interview with him in the near future.

After the department concludes its investigation, it will consult with Santa Clara County district attorney's office and city of San Jose representatives to decide whether to file charges against him, Morales said.


Oskar Garcia can be reached at

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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