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Jet stowaway undetected for hours before departure

Teen Stowaway Prompts Skepticism, Security Concerns

HONOLULU (AP) - A 15-year-old stowaway who survived a flight over the Pacific in a jet's wheel well spent seven hours undetected in what is supposed to be a highly secure area of San Jose International Airport before the flight departed, according to an official briefed on the investigation.

The law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Tuesday that video surveillance shows the boy on the airfield a little after 1 a.m. Sunday, walking on the tarmac and near airplanes in fenced and guarded areas. The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.

While it's not clear how the teen spent all that time, FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen was sleeping in the plane before the 8 a.m. PDT takeoff. He "literally just slept on the plane overnight," Simon said.

High altitude and low temperatures knocked him out during the 5 1/2-hour flight; he didn't regain consciousness until an hour after the plane landed in Hawaii, Simon said. Medical experts have said the boy may have survived the subzero temperatures and thin air of the plane's 38,000-foot cruising altitude because his body went into a state akin to hibernation.

When the landing gear of a Boeing 767 retracts, there is little room to maneuver in the wheel well. The boy would have had to curl up in the fetal position or crouch down the entire time. And there is no way to get into the main cabin or luggage compartment without removing large pieces of the aircraft's interior, said Jon Day, general manager of Southern California Aviation, a maintenance yard in Victorville, Calif., that handles commercial jets.

The boy was resting Tuesday at a Honolulu hospital. Hawaii's Department of Human Services said child welfare officials were arranging his safe return to Northern California.

Meanwhile, investigators were struggling to find out how the San Jose airport's post-9/11 security could have been so easily breached.

Besides video surveillance, the airport has German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers and is surrounded by fences, although many sections do not have barbed wire and could easily be scaled.

The incident "raises serious concerns affecting passenger safety," said U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., who is asking the Government Accountability Office to assess airport perimeter safety nationwide.

The Transportation Security Administration said it has spent $80 billion on aviation security since its inception, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. That includes baggage and passenger screening, but not perimeter security, which is the responsibility of local authorities.

San Jose airport officials did not respond to questions about their security budget.

Swalwell said San Jose airport officials told him Tuesday they were still reviewing video from before dawn Sunday because there are multiple feeds from many cameras at the 1,050-acre airport.

Simon, at the FBI, said video they've found so far shows the teen right after he scaled the fence and going toward the plane.

The boy has not been charged with a crime, but much about him - including his identity and his motivation - remained a public mystery. Media were camped outside a Santa Clara, Calif., home where his family purportedly lives, but no one came out Tuesday. Authorities haven't released the boy's name, but Jennifer Dericco, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Unified School District, said that he attends school in the district.

The FAA says about one-quarter of the 105 stowaways who have sneaked aboard flights worldwide since 1947 have survived. Some wheel-well stowaways survived deadly cold and a lack of oxygen because their breathing, heart rate and brain activity slow down.


Pritchard reported from Los Angeles and can be reached athttps://twitter.com/lalanewsman . Garcia can be reached athttp://twitter.com/oskargarcia .

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu and Raquel Maria Dillon in Victorville, Calif., and AP National Writer Martha Mendoza in San Jose, Calif.

Join the discussion

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johnrecon65 April 22 2014 at 4:26 PM

Someone in this govt better hire returning vets, older vets or retired police officers who understand what the word death or distruction means. The govt wants to hire vets for their experience well here is the place to start we are going down the drain when it it comes to security in this country from our military bases to the airports. I would not mind getting harrased by airline security if they were right, but to be harrased by meter maids pisses us off because the finally got a job that gives them some power.GET PEOPLE WHO LOOK AND ACT LIKE THEY HAVE A REAL JOB TO DO THIS IS NOT A JOKE. ANY BREACH OF VIOLATIONS MAKE THESE CLOWNS WALK, BARRED FROM FLYING ON US CARRIERS.

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johnrecon65 April 22 2014 at 4:43 PM

Try having a closed water bottle in your carry on for medication and they call out the national guard. But to advertise that this kid is not going to be charged gives every wack job an idear for doing the same. In Vietnam the wall has over a hundred names on it who were killed by kids 15 year olds or younger . Wake up America.

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1 reply
Diane johnrecon65 April 22 2014 at 5:01 PM

They did not say the young man would not be charged.....just that the results of the investigation would have to go to the state for determination of charges.

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mrcorrie63 April 22 2014 at 4:43 PM

Obviously, more security is needed....... Better surveillance equipment and additional security officers!

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1 reply
Diane mrcorrie63 April 22 2014 at 5:00 PM

They had the cameras; they needed more or more vigilant officers observing what the cameras were capturing.

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1 reply
bambi4318.barbara Diane April 22 2014 at 5:13 PM

Sounds like the person that was supposed to watch the security cameras was reading a book, watching tv or snoozing.

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scottee April 23 2014 at 7:46 AM

what are the point of federal laws....security laws, immigration laws....if the federal government is not going to enforce them?

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1 reply
kcarthey scottee April 23 2014 at 8:09 AM

What federal laws are you talking about? I don't think there is one against stowing away in a wheel well. Our legislators have been too busy trying to repeal ACA

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ludiamondz April 22 2014 at 4:46 PM

I mean judgin from this incident its obvious that the millions of dollars in extra security and the countless years of getting you body groped didn't work. Maybe they should install high tech cameras that detect heat sensors so if even a mouse comes close to the gate we will know. In addition we should have drones flying to ensure everyone is "safe" also we should make sure they every person is screened when they check off their luggage. We should also make a new agency that patrols and secures us outside the airport like the tarmacs and the entrance in addition we should have more military soldiers. I mean its all about safety now right? Your security is worth spending everything we have on it.

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twiggymonsterone April 22 2014 at 4:47 PM

The fact that this kid got away with it, well it was plain dumb luck. The over reaction to it, is plain stupid. Animals have been doing it for years, why not people? People are now going to start screaming for measures their not going to want to pay for, government will have to make new regulations they won't believe in and kid's parents are going to sue (and probably win) that airlines were negligent in letting him get on board (even if it was in a wheel well). Please is there nothing we can't find a reason to complain about?

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1 reply
fred twiggymonsterone April 22 2014 at 5:17 PM

Listen Twiggy, I object to having to go through the TSA's bull ****! It is a useless endeavor. It is " Bush think!"
and that means a waist of time!

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minutemaus April 22 2014 at 4:52 PM

". . . how the boy slipped through security that includes video surveillance, German shepherds and Segway-riding police officers".

Oh, that's an easy one. They were off eating doughnuts (well, maybe not the video surveillance).

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dsb1252 April 23 2014 at 9:46 AM

A total failure of those responsible.

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randinrm April 23 2014 at 2:17 AM

"...although many sections do not have barbed wire and could easily be scaled."


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1 reply
mstoye randinrm April 23 2014 at 2:42 AM

Yes, just look for the red carpet section...can't be too hard to find!

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rshaw2400 April 22 2014 at 5:00 PM

Keep the luggage sniffing bomb detectors, revert to the simple walk-through metal detectors, DUMP the TSA. 13 Years, 8 Trillion dollars, ZERO terrorist plots foiled!

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1 reply
maximogallego rshaw2400 April 22 2014 at 5:13 PM

Agree! Its all a scheme created by the Democrats and Republicans who serve the New World Order
to show is how to comply like good sheep in the name of safety. Safety from what? They have done zero except violate us as Americans.

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