Yahya Abdi, teen stowaway, speaks out about trip in plane's wheel well

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Teen Stowaway Speaks Out About His Death-Defying Plane Ride


By MARTHA MENDOZA

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A Somali immigrant who survived an arduous flight to Hawaii stowed away in a jet's wheel well says he was trying to reach his mom, a refugee in Ethiopia who says her teenage son broke down in tears this week during their first call since his ordeal.

Mother Ubah Mohammed Abdule, who is seeking U.S. asylum, told The Associated Press Wednesday her son, who she hasn't seen in eight years, cried on the phone Tuesday and told her he thought she was dead.

"He says, 'Mom you are not dead for sure? I thought you died in a boat trip. This is incredible news.' Then he became silent for a moment. Then he cried," she said.

Yahya Abdi, 15, said Tuesday that he ran away from his Santa Clara home, hopped a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport in April and climbed aboard the Hawaii Airlines plane because it was the first flight he could find heading west, and he wanted to go see his mother. Yahya, who described crouching in the wheel well and covering his ears at take-off, made his first public comments during a Google Chat on Tuesday to KPIX-5 (http://cbsloc.al/1lCIvg4 ).

"It was above the clouds, I could see through the little holes," Yahya said, who gave short, stilted answers.

When asked if he can believe he survived the trip, Yahya paused several seconds: "Uh, no." But he also said he wasn't scared.

Yahya survived the flight at 35,000 feet despite low oxygen and freezing temperatures. Video footage from the Maui airport shows him dropping to the tarmac about an hour after the jet landed.

The teen said he made the decision to get on board the plane because he didn't want to live with his stepmom and wanted to find his mother, who he hasn't seen since he was seven years old.

Yahya is staying at a temporary foster home. He will be a junior in high school this fall and plans to live with his aunt in the Minneapolis area.

Yahya has been spending his days doing normal teenage things. "I've been going to the movie theater and playing video games," he told KPIX-5.

Earlier this year, police said they were investigating possible criminal charges against the boy for climbing the airport fence, and that the teen was being cared for by child protective services.

The Santa Clara County Office of the Public Defender confirms it has been appointed to "advise and assist" the boy, but could not say in what capacity due to juvenile privacy rules.

A family spokeswoman forwarded questions on Wednesday from AP to father Abdilahi Yusuf, a Santa Clara taxi driver, about why his son is not living with him. As with past requests, Yusuf has not responded. The spokeswoman, Zahra Billoo with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says the family wants to maintain their privacy.

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Associated Press reporter Abdi Guled contributed to this story from Mogadishu, Somalia.

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Yahya Abdi, teen stowaway, speaks out about trip in plane's wheel well
A 16-year-old boy, seen sitting on a stretcher center, who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii Sunday afternoon, April 20, 2014. The boy survived the trip halfway across the Pacific Ocean unharmed despite frigid temperatures at 38,000 feet and a lack of oxygen, FBI and airline officials said. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu told The Associated Press on Sunday night that the boy was questioned by the FBI after being discovered on the tarmac at the Maui airport with no identification. "Kid's lucky to be alive," Simon said. (AP Photo/The Maui News, Chris Sugidono)
A plane taxis after landing at Mineta San Jose International Airport, Monday, April 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. A 16-year-old boy scrambled over a fence at the airport, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii, Sunday. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen did not remember the flight from San Jose. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
People make their way into Terminal A at Mineta San Jose International Airport near the Hawaiian Airlines gates Monday, April 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. A 16-year-old boy scrambled over a fence at the airport, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii, Sunday. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen did not remember the flight from San Jose. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A worker moves equipment near gates used by Hawaiian Airlines at Terminal A of Mineta San Jose International Airport, Monday, April 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. A 16-year-old boy scrambled over a fence at the airport, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii, Sunday. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen did not remember the flight from San Jose. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A plane takes off at Mineta San Jose International Airport, Monday, April 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. A 16-year-old boy scrambled over a fence at the airport, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii, Sunday. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen did not remember the flight from San Jose. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Workers move equipment near gates used by Hawaiian Airlines at Terminal A of Mineta San Jose International Airport, Monday, April 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. A 16-year-old boy scrambled over a fence at the airport, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii a misadventure that stirred concern about possible weak spots in the security system that protects the nation's airline fleet. Security footage from the San Jose airport verified that the boy climbed a fence and crossed a runway to get to Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 on Sunday morning. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Workers move equipment near gates used by Hawaiian Airlines at Terminal A of Mineta San Jose International Airport, Monday, April 21, 2014, in San Jose, Calif. A 16-year-old boy scrambled over a fence at the airport, crossed a tarmac and climbed into a jetliner's wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii, Sunday. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu said the teen did not remember the flight from San Jose. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
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