A teen stowaway has opened up about his harrowing journey inside a plane’s wheel well. Yahye Abdi, age 15, stunned the nation when he survived a 2,400 mile flight from San Jose, California, to Maui, Hawaii. His survival is specifically unusual as the plane reached an elevation of 38,000 feet, where the temperatures likely reached 80 degrees below zero.
In a candid interview, Yahye admitted that he did not expect to survive the trip. However, he was willing to take the risk. The 15-year-old boy wanted to see his mother.
At the age of seven, Yahye left Somolia to live with his father and stepmother in the United States. As his mother lives in an Ethiopian refugee camp, he had not seen or talked to her in eight years.
Yahye said he “didn’t want to live with [his] stepmom” and his missed his mother terribly. The situation prompted him to plot a dangerous escape. As reported by Yahoo News, he did not expect to survive. However, Yahya planned to travel to Africa in a plane’s wheel well.
As there were no direct flights to Africa, the teen chose a flight to Hawaii “because it was the closest one [he] could find that was going west.” Although airport security has increased significantly in recent years, the 15-year-old managed to climb a fence at San Jose International Airport.
He then proceed to climb inside the plane’s wheel well undetected. Although he was unsure he would survive, Yahya said he was not frightened. The teen stowaway said he remained in a crouched position, covering his ears, while the plane left the ground. Yahya said he remained conscious until “it was above the clouds.” He said the view was amazing, as he “could see through the little holes” around the wheel well’s hatch.
When the plane reached Hawaii, the teen stowaway was discovered when he climbed out of the wheel well. It is unclear how Yahya survived the journey. However, experts believe hypothermia may have saved his life.
As reported by San Francisco Gate, Yahya likely slipped into unconsciousness within minutes. Although he was subjected to incredibly low temperatures and low levels of oxygen Yahya’s body managed to adapt.
Doctor Paul Auerbach explains that a hypothermic state may have protected his brain and other organs from fatal damage:
“Hypothermia can be protective until the point that you die from it. It puts you in a metabolic icebox… The odds are against you, though. It’s not something I would recommend anybody try.”
Yahye Abdi did not leave the plane’s wheel well unscathed. However, he is recovering from his injuries. The teen had an opportunity to speak with his mother via telephone, but it is unknown when he may be able to see her. The teen stowaway is currently in foster care. When he leaves the foster home he will live with an aunt in Minnesota.
Although the teen stowaway survived his journey inside the plane’s wheel well, he acknowledges that it was a very dangerous and bad idea.