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

Teen Stowaway Speaks Out About His Death-Defying Plane Ride


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.


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

Join the discussion

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Kate June 18 2014 at 1:10 PM

I felt terribly sorry for the boy at the time, and he definitely needs to get away from his father, who told him that his mother was dead. That was such a devastatingly cruel and heartless thing to do that I could hardly believe it.

Flag Reply +36 rate up
3 replies
serenecollleen June 18 2014 at 1:03 PM

Why on earth isn't this child with his mother??

Flag Reply +23 rate up
3 replies
raddison4x June 18 2014 at 12:57 PM

Awww, isn't that cute. Grrrr! He and the 90,000 illegals that have poured over the border recently make 90,001 new democrat voters that the republicans will have to support for the rest of their lives.

What part of ILLEGAL does Barry not understand?

Flag Reply +21 rate up
15 replies
siscosdad June 18 2014 at 1:08 PM

Another Arab/Muslim....get wise, people.

Flag Reply +20 rate up
11 replies
libertysanders June 18 2014 at 1:02 PM

Typical news media. Interview the kid and give him the attention he craves. Now let's see how many kids die in jetliner wheel wells because of the media's lack of responsibility.

Flag Reply +17 rate up
1 reply
Kate libertysanders June 18 2014 at 1:15 PM

The last thing he wanted was attention. He was trying to find his mother or other family members. Try reading the original story.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
4 replies
halt1025 June 18 2014 at 12:42 PM

obomacare at work

Flag Reply +17 rate up
10 replies
carlsell June 18 2014 at 12:34 PM

A great way to solve the illegals problem at NO cost

Flag Reply +13 rate up
7 replies
oujoou June 18 2014 at 12:40 PM

Poor kid. Misses his mom. :( I think sometimes you have to show how serious your situation is . . . for better or for worse. :( Better than robbing a store. :)

Flag Reply +9 rate up
3 replies
Buckingham's June 18 2014 at 12:46 PM

He survived but was really TIREd.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
Chris Buckingham's June 18 2014 at 6:01 PM

He's doing WELL.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
larry June 18 2014 at 3:35 PM

Stupid kid------------

Flag Reply +5 rate up
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