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Stowaway Teen's Father Was Shocked To Hear Son Was In Hawaii

Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 after its arrival on Monday at Maui's Kahului Airport. After the same flight landed on Sunday, a California teen emerged from the left rear wheel well.
Oskar Garcia

The father of a teen who last weekend survived a 5 1/2-hour flight from California to Hawaii in the wheel well of a passenger jet says:

"When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy."

Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi also tells Voice of America's Somali service that he was confused at first when police from Hawaii called on Sunday to say his son had landed in Maui.

"They told me that they were holding my son," the California cab driver said to VOA. "I was shocked. I wondered how my son went there. ... They tried to explain to me about the stowaway and the plane story. I got confused, and asked them to call the San Jose police department which later explained to me how things happened."

As we reported Wednesday, it's thought that the 15-year-old boy — whom the father identified to VOA as Yahya Abdi — had some vague plan in mind to eventually return to his native Somalia, where his mother lives. The father told VOA that the family has other relatives there as well.

"He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live," the dad told VOA, referring to the teen. "We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can't go back."

Oakland's KTVU-TV reports that "Jennifer Dericco, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Unified School District, confirmed that Santa Clara High School Principal Gregory Shelby sent a note Tuesday to staff members saying the teen had been in the U.S. for about four years, speaks English as his second language and had transferred into the district just five weeks ago."

The San Francisco Chronicle reminds readers that the teen "is not facing criminal charges in Hawaii or in San Jose and is being treated at a hospital in Honolulu under the care of doctors and social workers."

CBS San Francisco writes of what it was like when the boy emerged from the wheel well onto the tarmac in Maui:

"Staggering toward the front of the plane, the soft-spoken boy in a San Francisco Giants hoodie asked a ramp agent for a drink of water, setting in motion federal and local law enforcement investigations, national calls for better airport security and a flurry of speculation about how anyone could survive such a perilous trip. ...

"FBI and TSA investigations questioned the boy and fed him like a local with teriyaki meatballs and rice from an airport restaurant and a box of Maui macadamia nut cookies. ...

"When asked if he knew the plane he boarded was coming to Maui, the boy said: 'I don't know; I just got on the first one I came to,' [Maui District Airport Manager Marvin] Moniz said."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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