Report: Teen stowaway's mom says son believed her dead

A teenage boy is loaded into an ambulance after surviving a 5 1/2-hour flight from San Jose, Calif., to Hawaii in the wheel well of a jet. CBS News

SAN JOSE, California -- The mother of a California teen who stowed away on a flight to Hawaii tells Voice of America that her son had recently learned that she was alive after being told by his father she had died.

Speaking with VOA from a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia, mother Ubah Mohamed Abdullahi said she felt bad that her son risked his life and that her dream is to live with her children in the United States.

FBI agents say surveillance video shows the 15-year-old jumping out of the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines jet on a Maui tarmac Sunday after surviving a cross-Pacific flight from San Jose, California.

Staggering toward the front of the plane, the soft-spoken boy in a San Francisco Giants hoodie asked a ramp agent for a drink of water, setting in motion federal and local law enforcement investigations, national calls for better airport security and a flurry of speculation about how anyone could survive such a perilous trip.

Abdullahi said her ex-husband took their three children to California without her knowledge, and that she hadn't heard from them since 2006.

Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, who said he is the boy's father, told VOA Wednesday that his son - who is still hospitalized in Honolulu - missed Africa, where they used to live, and had been struggling in school.

Abdi said he learned of the perilous journey Sunday when he got a call from police in Hawaii, but he couldn't understand how he got to Maui and asked them to contact the San Jose Police Department.

"When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy," Abdi said.

The Associated Press was unable to reach Abdi, who airport officials say drives a taxi.

The boy told officials he evaded what was supposed to be a multi-layered airport security system in San Jose by climbing a fence.

"Something broke down here," CBS News national transportation safety expert Mark Rosenker said. "Maybe we need to be spending more time looking at the outside of our airports and the perimeters of those airports, given the fact that we've seen a successful breach."

Airport perimeter breaches are far from rare. In 2012 a Philadelphia driver crashed through a gate onto an active runway, and a similar incident occurred that year at Sky Harbor International Airport. Last Christmas a man climbed a fence at the same airport in Phoenix and ran across the tarmac. In addition, a Congressional report revealed that during the decade immediately following 9/11, the nation's airports investigated almost 1,400 perimeter breaches.

"Each of these airports have their own geographical features that are unique and have to be looked at to make sure that the breaches cannot be done," Rosenker said.



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