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Teen runaway survives plane's wheel well trip to Maui

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Photo: Video by kmtv.com

Teen runaway survives plane's wheel well trip to Maui

By Julianne Cassidy. CREATED Apr 21, 2014

A 16-year-old stowed away on a Hawaiian Airlines flight to Maui from San Jose, Calif., Sunday after running away from home. The teen from Santa Clara, Calif., hopped a Mineta International Airport fence in San Jose and climbed into the wheel well of Flight 45. 

"The teen emerged in Maui after enduring freezing temperatures and a lack of oxygen as the flight reached an altitude of 38,000 feet," reports the Los Angeles Times. “'How he survived, I don’t know,' said Tom Simon, an FBI spokesman based in Honolulu. 'It’s a miracle.'” The teen was found on the Kahului Airport tarmac on Apr. 20.

During the five and a half hour trip, officials estimate that the teen blacked out at 10,000 feet and remained unconscious until about an hour after landing. Temperatures during the flight reached approximately 80 degrees below zero. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Heat from the plane’s hydraulic lines in the wheel well, as well as heat retained in the tires, could have helped the stowaway survive as the aircraft climbed to altitudes with sub-zero temperatures, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] reported.

"In addition, the plane’s steady climb to high altitudes may allow a person to drift into unconsciousness as oxygen becomes scarce," further reports the Los Angeles Times. "And as the heat dissipates from the wheel well, a stowaway can develop hypothermia, a condition that preserves the central nervous system. Both hypoxia and hypothermia may resolve as the plane gradually descends for landing, the FAA said."

Security is currently being investigated at the San Jose airport after this near-fatal incident. 

Julianne Cassidy

Julianne Cassidy

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A city girl gone country, Julianne Cassidy is a newly Nashville-based entertainment journalist from Philadelphia.