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Teen who stowed away on flight to Hawaii remains hospitalized

A teenage boy who ran away from home survived a five-hour flight in the freezing wheel well of a jetliner that reached altitudes 38,000 feet as it traveled from California to Hawaii. (commons,wikimedia .org)
A teenage boy who ran away from home survived a five-hour flight in the freezing wheel well of a jetliner that reached altitudes 38,000 feet as it traveled from California to Hawaii. (commons,wikimedia .org)

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A teenage boy who stowed away on a flight from California to Hawaii in the frozen, oxygen-deprived wheel well of a passenger jet remained hospitalized on Tuesday, two days after his death-defying jaunt over the Pacific Ocean, a Hawaii official said.

The teenager, whose name has not been released, is "resting comfortably" at a hospital in Hawaii, spokeswoman Kayla Rosenfeld of state's Department of Human Services said in a statement.

The boy is in the custody of the department's Child Welfare Services division, and officials are working to ensure his safe return to California, she said.

There has been conflicting information on whether the boy, who is from Santa Clara, California, is 15 or 16 years old.

The boy on Sunday ran away from home and traveled as a stowaway in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 on a more than five-hour flight from San Jose International Airport to Kahului Airport in Maui, the FBI said. He crept onto the tarmac in San Jose under cover of darkness, San Jose police said.

FBI special agent Tom Simon in Hawaii on Tuesday said the teenager at first was mistakenly described as 16 years old but he was actually 15. Rosenfeld said her agency has information showing him to be 16.

The teenager quickly lost consciousness as temperatures in the wheel well sank as low as minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (62 degrees Celsius below zero), Simon said. The FBI said the plane eventually reached an altitude of 38,000 feet, a level where oxygen is so scarce that survival is difficult.

Since 1947, 105 people worldwide have been found to have stowed away on flights, and 80 of them died, according to figures from the Federal Aviation Administration. That represents a survival rate of less than 24 percent. The last known stowaway to walk away from such an ordeal was in 2013, on a domestic flight in Nigeria.

The teenage stowaway randomly chose a plane to climb into at the airport in San Jose, with no specific plan to make the treacherous flight to Hawaii, Simon said.

No one answered the door at a home believed to be the teenager's residence in Santa Clara.

If Hawaii officials do not determine the boy suffered any abuse or neglect back home in California, the Santa Clara County Social Services Agency would typically not become involved in the case, said Stanley Lee, a spokesman for that agency.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in Santa Clara, Califorina; Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Adler)

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