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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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loveskiing April 23 2014 at 5:03 AM

This story makes me feel so much better! I'm so happy that we've spent EIGHTY BILLION $$$ to "protect" us while a teenager can sneak past high tech security and get to a plane with hundreds on board. Imagine for one split second if instead of being a kid from San Jose who was wanting some adventure, he was a foreign or domestic terrorist who had a vest of high grade explosives which he detonated while the plane was airborne at a lower level?
If box cutters can bring down a plane, all the high tech we're spending is worthless. We better keep harassing 80+ year old folks and reduce 3 ounces of liquids to zero. Oh and redouble the efforts to find Weapons of Mass Deception...

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1 reply
James M. Adams loveskiing April 23 2014 at 5:14 AM

Printing $80 billion a month wasn't such a great idea either. Might be a good idea to vote for a capitalist next time.

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Kurtis Erikson April 23 2014 at 12:57 AM

No security is ever perfect and never will be. There's an inherent risk to being alive. The odds of dying in a terrorist attack are millions to one and dying of a heart attack is about 1 in 3. If our fears were based upon real threats, we'd have far more fear from a big mac and fries than terrorism. Chain link fences are relatively easy to climb. All they have to do is put a sensor line on top that alerts authorities to a breach. With today's technology, it should be relatively easy to fix this problem.

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1 reply
Amelia Kurtis Erikson April 23 2014 at 2:25 AM

Yeah, but they already spent all of the money. Who will pay for it? Not that big of a deal. I'm not reaching in my pocket.

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RockNHula April 23 2014 at 12:56 AM

What a way to save $500.00

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estimatorone April 23 2014 at 12:51 AM

Actually, this kid did the airport a big favor - showing their security
weaknesses (although I do not think that the media should have
put this out as they did). Obviously, people will be replaced, and,
for awhile, the San Jose airport will probably be one of the most
secured areas on the planet. As to this kid surviving this flight, I
am thoroughly impressed. Here in New York, by Kennedy Airport,
mostly before 9-11, it would not be unusual to find some one laying
in a parking lot (or even crashed through a roof of a building). It was
people doing the same thing this "boy" did. However, they did not
survive. As a plane would be on final approach to the airport, the
landing gear would come down and out would come this unfortunate
person, long dead, and crashing to the ground somewhere along the
approach path to the airport. That is why I find it amazing that this kid
survived with no permanent injuries.

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icdedadams April 23 2014 at 12:49 AM

Well the German Shepherds must have been on a break. I have 2 of them and NOTHING gets past them. When my husband is gone they are the worlds greatest security system, not to mention protection system as well.

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msollenne April 23 2014 at 12:37 AM

I want to personally thank that 15 year old for waking up the IDIOTS that are in charge of our so called 'security' in this country...they couldn't defend a birdcage from a drunk cat....I hope people wake up to see what a lousy job our protection services are actually doing here in america....give that some thought next time you see bombs going off in places like Boston....or see planes flying into skyscrapers across the country.

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4 replies
El Presidente April 23 2014 at 12:34 AM

I'm having a very hard time swallowing this. What happens to a chicken in your freezer after 5 hours? Right - hard as a rock. This kid was exposed to 80 below zero for all those hours! I don't care about your hibernation/suspended animation/low heartrate blah blah blah...he would've been a kid-shaped piece of ice when that wheel well finally opened.

Somebody's hiding the truth.

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3 replies
sharonmartin16 April 23 2014 at 12:25 AM

Goes to show the airport was NOT secured !

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2 replies
masterhq sharonmartin16 April 23 2014 at 12:56 AM

goes to show you are right - all that screening of little old ladies, men having relief problems, little babies, beautiful models are all for show, and for the pleasure of the TSA people, erstwhile fast food workers before that.

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tssr234 sharonmartin16 April 23 2014 at 12:56 AM

Amen and we need to hire this kid to show us how he did it so we can fix the problem, instead of building another useless fence!

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dsb1252 April 23 2014 at 9:46 AM

A total failure of those responsible.

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asbard April 23 2014 at 1:08 AM

The Israeli's are right. We know nothing about airport security in this country.

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