SAN JOSE, Calif. >> Police said Tuesday they plan to interview a California teen who stowed away on a Hawaii-bound flight two weeks ago, surviving sub-freezing temperatures in the wheel well of a jetliner as it crossed the Pacific Ocean.
The 15-year-old Somali immigrant flew back to California over the weekend and was being cared for by Santa Clara County Child Protective Services, San Jose police spokesman Albert Morales said.
“There are plans to speak to him,” Morales said.
Yahya Abdi’s father, Abdilahi Yusuf, who drives a taxi in San Jose, flew to Hawaii last week to bring his son home, but child welfare officials there turned the boy over to their California counterparts.
Law enforcement agents want to question Abdi about how he climbed over a fence at San Jose International Airport then got into the wheel well of a Boeing 767 and survived the April 20 flight at 35,000 feet despite the cold and a lack of oxygen.
Authorities have searched the airport perimeter and found no signs of anyone going over or under the fence. A review of video surveillance also didn’t show Abdi, but there are gaps in the coverage. As a result of the breach, the airport is adding more cameras.
Abdi, who lived in Santa Clara with his father, stepmother and siblings, had been unhappy in California and desperately missed his mother, according to those who know his family. School officials said he had been in the U.S. for about four years and speaks English as a second language.
Abdi’s mother Ubah Mohammed Abdule lives in a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia and told The Associated Press that the boy longed to see her but his father told him she was dead.
“I just heard he was discharged from the hospital through media,” she said during a telephone interview Tuesday from the Shedder refugee camp in Ethiopia where she is waiting for her application for asylum in the U.S. to be processed. “I really don’t know his whereabouts, nor did I talk to him. I was expecting he would join me afterward.”
She said her asylum application is about to be concluded, and she is looking forward to seeing her family in the U.S.
The boy’s siblings have told local media that the father didn’t take the children away from Abdule or mistreat them.
James Livingston, a San Jose psychologist who works with refugees and adolescents, said it’s not surprising that a teen in Abdi’s situation would have a hard time.
“It is always a difficult adjustment for refugee children coming from another country and culture and speaking a different language to make the adjustment in this country,” he said. “It’s not surprising if he would start to miss the home country no matter how bad the situation is there.”
Livingston, who doesn’t know Abdi, said it doesn’t surprise him that authorities have not immediately returned the teen to his father.
“It’s the responsibility of social services to investigate any possibility of his home not being a safe environment before returning that child to that environment, so I would assume they are being thorough before returning the boy to his dad,” he said.
Associated Press reporter Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia, contributed to this story.