Teen Stowaway Survives Flight Inside Wheel Well

by Maria Gerbic

Yahi Abdi, a 15 year old from California, survived a 5 hour flight Sunday by hiding inside the plane’s wheel well. The boy reportedly  ran away from his home in California to see his mother in Somalia. He jumped the fence early in the morning Sunday and picked a plane at random, unsure about his plan. The boy was not discovered until after the plane landed later that day.

At 1 am Easter morning, Yahi Abdi climbed over the barbed wire fence in San Jose, California, and hopped on to the first plane he saw. He spent the next 6 hours on the airport grounds before the plane took off at 7:55 am. The boy spent almost 5 hours inside the plane’s wheel well, where he survived oxygen-depleted heights as high as 38,000 feet. The boy emerged from the plane about an hour after landing in Maui, appearing dazed and asking for water. Airport employees fed the boy and transferred him to the hospital for treatment. His appearance has many wondering how he survived the trip.

One hundred and five people have attempted to fly inside wheel wells since 1947, and only 25 have come out alive. The Federal Aviation Administration’s Civil Aerospace Medical Institute says that at such high altitudes the body enters a “hibernative” state, while hypothermia also sets in. It is possible that the boy suffered permanent brain damage or kidney injuries due to the trauma that his body experienced. The boy is currently in the custody of Hawaii Child Welfare Services workers, where he will be taken care of until he can return home. Law enforcement officials are investigating the security breach at San Jose International Airport to figure out how the entered the grounds and why he was not caught.

Abdi lives with his father and step-mother in San Jose, and only 5 weeks ago transferred to Santa Clara High School. The teen is described as extremely quiet and shy by classmates at his new high school. Yahi Abdi’s father, Abdilahi Yusaf Abdi, says that the boy most likely left his home in San Jose, California, because he was struggling at school. The teen did not go to school in Africa and spoke English as a second language, making learning difficult for him. He says that the boy also wanted to return to Somalia to see his family. His father stated that, “He [Yahi] was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live. We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can’t go back” (NPR). The teen is not facing criminal charges and is being treated for injuries at a hospital in Honolulu.

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