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Teen stowaway can't believe he survived Hawaii flight

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:41 p.m. HST, Jun 18, 2014

SAN JOSE, Calif. » 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 Hawaiian 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.

"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.


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lokela wrote:
Lucky to be alive. But sad to hear he was misled that his real Mom passed away.
on June 18,2014 | 06:09AM
8082062424 wrote:
i agree . he seem to be doing better and is at least more happy away from his father. with some luck he will have the chance to have a normal life
on June 18,2014 | 10:05AM
Mike174 wrote:
who friggin cares....
on June 18,2014 | 06:38AM
gsc wrote:
I agree ............
on June 18,2014 | 08:25AM
false wrote:
Maybe the powers that be for TSA are trying to bury the security issues? Human interest stories better than the sad drownings in any week? Or the war in Iraq or other helpless political events?
on June 18,2014 | 09:08AM
8082062424 wrote:
As human we should care to some degree . when humans stop caring is when the world becomes a worst place
on June 18,2014 | 10:09AM
copperwire9 wrote:
People with compassion. That's who "friggin cares."
on June 18,2014 | 11:16AM
laachang wrote:
And once again.....who gives a $#!*
on June 18,2014 | 10:42AM
copperwire9 wrote:
People who still have a semblance of care for their fellow human beings. For instance, even if *you* were suffering, plenty of us would try to help you, even knowing your hardness of heart.
on June 18,2014 | 11:17AM
Anonymous wrote:
Give notoriety to dim wits who act like this one did- good show SA.
on June 18,2014 | 11:05AM
jmarie wrote:
Send him along with his father back to Ethiopia.
on June 18,2014 | 11:20AM
copperwire9 wrote:
And where shall we send you?
on June 18,2014 | 06:27PM
Surfer_Dude wrote:
Yahya......stay in school and take a geography class. Learn that going west from the Bay Area is not the shortest way to Somalia. btw, does anybody know if this kid is a citizen, legal alien or illegal alien?
on June 18,2014 | 11:56AM
HawaiiHiker wrote:
So, I've been waiting in security lines, taking off my shoes and taking out my laptop and getting randomly selected to have my bag searched at the airport all these years for nothing? Scary that with all we spend on security, some kid can just hop a fence and stowaway on a plane.
on June 18,2014 | 12:00PM
steveoctober wrote:
Worst part are those who have been hassled and have their little tubes of toothpaste seized by power hungry Nazis, yet nothing happens to this kid when he's committed a very serious offense ? At the very minimum he should be serving time in juvenile hall.
on June 18,2014 | 02:56PM
iwanaknow wrote:
As taxpayers we will take care of him til he's 18. Is there a rich sugar daddy (or mommy) that could give him a round trip ticket to see his real mom?

How about he write a book/movie deal on his adventures and then he can visit his mom on his own dime?

on June 18,2014 | 12:07PM
jusjoking wrote:
The movie rights are in the lawyer's hands already. Google yahya, the miracle child in America.
on June 18,2014 | 02:08PM
samidunn wrote:
I can't believe it either.
on June 18,2014 | 02:42PM
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