The young stowaway endured freezing temperatures and a lack of oxygen aboard the five-and-a-half hour Hawaiian Airlines flight, which reached an altitude of some 38,000 feet, an FBI official told the Los Angeles Times.
“How he survived, I don’t know. It’s a miracle,” FBI spokesman Tom Simon told the daily following the teen’s harrowing journey halfway across the Pacific Ocean.
Security video from the Mineta International Airport in San Jose showed the youth hopping a fence and making his way to Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45, where he climbed, undetected, into the wheel well of the aircraft.
With oxygen scarce and temperatures well below freezing, Simon said the boy appears to have been unconscious “for pretty much the entire” flight.
The aircraft landed Sunday mid-morning at Maui’s Kahului Airport, and the boy, who did not regain consciousness for another hour, woke up, he hopped down onto the tarmac.
Hawaiian Airlines personnel at that point noticed the youth on a airport ramp and notified security, the newspaper wrote.
Despite the security breach that allowed him to reach the plane, there was no indication that boy posed a threat to the airline, and he has not been charged with a crime, report said.
While it is not unheard of, it is extremely rare to survive a flight in the wheel well of an aircraft. Many who try end up freezing to death or succumbing from a lack of oxygen.
In one recent such case, the body of a 26-year-old stowaway was found crumpled on a suburban London street in 2012, after he apparently climbed aboard a British Airways plane in Angola and fell from the wheel well as the plane prepared to land at Heathrow Airport.