HONOLULU (AP) — Long flights can leave anyone a little unsteady, but a teenager who defied the odds, surviving a flight from California to Hawaii tucked in a jetliner's wheel well, was disoriented, thirsty and could barely walk after the freezing, low-pressure ordeal, airport officials who reviewed video of his arrival said Wednesday.
Security video shows the 15-year-old boy dangling his feet for about 15 seconds from the wheel well before jumping 8 to 10 feet to the ground, landing on his feet and immediately collapsing on Sunday morning, Maui District Airport Manager Marvin Moniz said.
Staggering toward the front of the plane, the soft-spoken boy in a San Francisco Giants hoodie asked a ramp agent for a drink of water, setting in motion federal and local law enforcement investigations, national calls for better airport security and a flurry of speculation about how anyone could survive such a perilous trip.
FBI and TSA investigations questioned the boy and fed him like a local with teriyaki meatballs and rice from an airport restaurant and a box of Maui macadamia nut cookies. The teen, whose name has not been released, had little to offer in the way of an explanation.
He said he had been in an argument at home but couldn't remember the flight. He didn't know where he was.
When asked if he knew the plane he boarded was coming to Maui, the boy said: "'I don't know, I just got on the first one I came to,'" Moniz said.
"He didn't realize he was in Maui — not at all," Moniz said.
He was clear, however, about how he evaded what was supposed to be a multi-layered airport security system back in San Jose: He said he climbed a fence.
That hasn't surprised airport security experts, who say that for all the tens of billions of dollars the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes parked on the tarmac.