Teenager survives five-hour flight in jet’s wheel well

A 16-year-old boy is carried on a stretcher in Maui, Hawaii, April 20, 2014, as seen in this handout photo courtesy of Chris Sugidono,The Maui News. (REUTERS/Chris Sugidono/The Maui News)

LOS ANGELES: A U.S. teenager was lucky to be alive Monday after surviving a bone-chilling, low-oxygen flight from California to Hawaii in a jet’s wheel well, authorities said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation identified the stowaway as a 16-year-old male who climbed the fence at a San Jose airport.

He then snuck into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines plane bound for Maui, FBI spokesman Tom Simon told AFP.

The youngster, who ran away from home, endured freezing temperatures and a lack of oxygen aboard the five-and-a-half hour flight, which reached an altitude of some 38,000 feet, he said.

Miraculously, the teen lived to tell.

With oxygen scarce and temperatures well below freezing, Simon said the teenager appeared to have been unconscious “for pretty much the entire” flight.

While it is not unheard of, it is extremely rare to survive a flight in the wheel well of an aircraft. Many who try end up freezing to death or succumbing to a lack of oxygen.

In one such case, the body of a 26-year-old was found crumpled on a suburban London street in 2012 after he apparently climbed aboard a British Airways plane in Angola and fell from the wheel well as the aircraft prepared to land at Heathrow Airport.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 23, 2014, on page 11.




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