Voice of America (Washington, DC)

23 April 2014

Somalia: Teen Stowaway's Father Says Allah Protected Son

The father of a teen stowaway who survived a five-and-a-half hour flight to Hawaii this week hidden in a jetliner's wheel well said Allah saved him from the dangers and extreme temperatures.

"When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy," Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, who lives in Santa Clara, California, told VOA's Somali service in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Authorities have not named the teen who flew Sunday from San Jose to Maui in the wheel compartment of a Hawaiian Airlines jet and likely passed out, enduring below zero temperatures and low oxygen levels.

The father identified his son to VOA as Yahya Abdi and said he is recovering in a Hawaii hospital.

In Maui, the teen crawled out of the wheel well about an hour after the Boeing 767 landed and was spotted by airport workers on the tarmac. He remains in the custody of Hawaii child welfare services workers.

The father said he first received the news in a phone call from the Hawaii department police.

"They told me that they were holding my son," he said. "I was shocked. I wondered how my son went there."

"They tried to explain to me about the stowaway and the plane story," the father said. "I got confused, and asked them to call the San Jose police department which later explained to me how things happened."

Abdi said his son was at home on Friday.

"He was with us on Friday noon," he said "We prayed the Friday prayers together."

According to media reports in Hawaii and California, the boy jumped a fence at San Jose International Airport shortly after 1:00 a.m. Sunday and remained on the tarmac for six hours without being detained by authorities. Authorities say surveillance footage shows the teen jumping the fence.

The teen had argued with is family and was trying to fly out to see his mother in Somalia, unidentified law enforcement officials said. The teen reportedly told investigators that he crawled into the belly of the Hawaiian Airlines plane because it was closest to the fence. He had nothing with him but a comb, they said.

When asked what forced the teen to take the risky trip, the father said: "He did not receive education when he was in Africa. Since we came here he had learning challenges at school. He was not good at math and science and I think he had a lot of education problems bothering him."

Media reports in California said the teen recently transferred to Santa Clara High School and fellow students described him as shy.

"He was very quiet person," his father said. "He was always busy with watching the TV and using computer. I can say he was really cool boy."

The father said his son often talked about Africa.

"He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live," he said. "We want to go back but due to the current living conditions we can't go back."

The father said that he was informed by authorities in Hawaii that the teen is going through health checks and that he would be returned home soon.

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