A 16-year-old runaway is "lucky to be alive" after hitching a ride in the wheel well of a plane, surviving sub-zero temperatures and losing consciousness during a flight from California to Hawaii.
The boy was found wandering the tarmac of Kahului Airport in Maui, Hawaii on Sunday after the five-and-a-half hour flight landed, according to airport officials.
Hawaiian Airlines said in a statement that airline personnel had noticed the boy on the tarmac and called security. "Our primary concern now is for the wellbeing of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived," the statement added.
The boy was then taken in by the FBI for questioning.
"Kid's lucky to be alive. There was no appearance of any special gear of any sort. He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight," FBI special agent Tom Simon told the Associated Press.
As the plane ascended to heights of up to 38,000 feet, temperatures in the wheel wells dropped to around -62 C, according to the Daily Mail.
"It sounds really incredible," aviation expert Jeff Wise told CNN. "Being in a wheel well is like all of a sudden being on top of Mount Everest." In addition to subzero temperatures, the boy endured oxygen deprivation, leading him to drift in and out of consciousness.
The boy's only possession was a comb for his hair, Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz told the Maui News. Moniz says the boy ran away after an argument with his family. Security footage from the San Jose airport captured the boy hopping over a fence and then climbing aboard Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45.
The boy has since been sent into child protective services and will not be charged, official say.
The boy isn't the first to attempt to hitch a ride on board a wheel well. Last August, a young teen from Nigeria survived a 35-minute flight aboard a domestic flight after hiding in a similar spot, the CBC points out.
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