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FBI investigates Hawaii plane teen stowaway: Highlights lax security at airport

A Santa Clara, Calif. teen survives a stowaway in a wheel wheel on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 Easter Sunday.
A Santa Clara, Calif. teen survives a stowaway in a wheel wheel on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 Easter Sunday.

Normally the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is tasked with investigating airplane hijackings, not teen stowaways. But on Easter Sunday the federal law enforcement agency found themselves looking into how a 16-year-old boy from Santa Clara jumped a fence at the San Jose, California airport, eventually managing to survive five-and-a-half hours in a Boeing 767 wheel well on Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 as a result, according to a Mercury News report on April 21.

And that's despite the fact that sub-zero temperatures had to be endured during the flight, as well as an altitude as high as 38,000 feet, which makes a Mount Everest climb pale in comparison. According to the LA Times, the youth passed out due to a lack of oxygen during the flight as well, making the story even more incredulous.

The teen stowaway told authorities that he was angry at his parents, and that an argument prompted his desire to flee. Hawaii child protective services now have custody of the youth, as law enforcement said the Hawaii Airlines declined to press charges. Getting a missing youth home to his family will now be the task of the Hawaiian authorities, who have their own missing youth they are asking the public to help them find.

The ability of a teen boy to gain access to an airplane flying anywhere is cause for concern for more than parents when one considers that it might just as easily be possible for a terrorist to plant something in a wheel well, too, now. After all, this youth was able to gain access to the tarmac unhindered, place himself inside the wheel well, and then stay undetected inside it for the duration of the flight--and one whole hour afterward. So what might a terrorist plant in such a space if he could jump a fence and enter the area without restraint?

While it is not the first time that someone has managed to get on a plane this way before, according to CNN, it should be cause for more concern about the lax security at the San Jose airport, especially that someone can gain admittance to the tarmac and stowaway in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 airplane totally undetected, regardless of their age.