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Teen stowaway can't believe he survived flight in jet wheel well

  • Article by: MARTHA MENDOZA
  • Associated Press
  • June 18, 2014 - 11:26 PM

– A Somali immigrant who survived an arduous flight to Hawaii stowed away in a jet’s wheel well says he was trying to reach his mom, a refugee in Ethiopia who says her teenage son broke down in tears this week during their first call since his ordeal.

Mother Ubah Mohammed Abdule, who is seeking U.S. asylum, told the Associated Press on Wednesday her son, who plans to move to Minnesota this fall, cried on the phone Tuesday and told her he thought she was dead.

“He says, ‘Mom, you are not dead for sure? I thought you died in a boat trip. This is incredible news.’ Then he became silent for a moment. Then he cried,” she said.

Yahya Abdi, 15, said Tuesday that he ran away from his Santa Clara home, hopped a fence at Mineta San Jose International Airport in April and climbed aboard the Hawaiian Airlines plane because it was the first flight he could find heading west, and he wanted to go see his mother, whom he hasn’t seen since he was 7 years old.

The teen, who described crouching in the wheel well and covering his ears at takeoff, made his first public comments during a Google Chat on Tuesday to KPIX-5 in San Francisco.

Yahya survived the flight at 35,000 feet despite low oxygen and freezing temperatures. Video footage from the Maui airport shows him dropping to the tarmac about an hour after the jet landed. He told KPIX-5 that he wasn’t scared.

The boy is staying at a temporary foster home. He will be a junior in high school this fall and plans to live with his aunt in the Minneapolis area.

© 2014 Star Tribune