A 15-year-old runaway survived a harrowing 5½-hour flight to Hawaii stowed away in the wheel well of a jumbo airliner on Sunday.
Aviation experts say the teen was probably unconscious soon after taking off from Mineta San Jose International Airport in California. He likely remained unconscious for most of the flight, according to the FBI.
The boy reportedly ran away from home in nearby Santa Clara after arguing with his parents. Airport surveillance video at San Jose airport captured the boy climbing a perimeter fence and approaching the Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767. He then disappeared.
Hours later and 2,350 miles away, airline workers spotted the disoriented teen walking on the tarmac at Kahului Airport in Maui.
The teen was transported to a hospital for evaluation. Stowing away on an airliner is a felony, but no charges will be filed.
Aviation experts believe the teenager survived the near zero atmosphere at 38,000 feet cruising altitude because the extreme below-zero temperatures put him into a suspended hibernation. In other words, his body was so cold and his metabolism was so low that his cells didn’t require much oxygen.
His body thawed out hours after landing in Hawaii. Officials believe he may suffer slight brain damage from the extreme cold and lack of oxygen.
Authorities said the temperature at the jet’s cruising altitude of 38,000 feet could have dropped to 50 degrees below zero or less.
The FBI is investigating how the boy was able to bypass airport security.
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