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Teen Stowaway Won't Face Federal Charges For Sneaking On San Jose To Maui Flight

SANTA CLARA (CBS SF) - The city of San Jose will not pursue criminal charges against a teen boy who snuck into the wheel well of an airliner early Sunday and survived a five-hour flight to Hawaii, San Jose Mineta International Airport officials said.

The city-owned airport, known as SJC, has obtained video surveillance footage of an unidentified person walking onto the airport ramp in the darkness Sunday morning and approaching a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767, according to SJC spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes.

The federal Transportation Security Administration has decided that the video involves sensitive security information and will not be releasing it to the public, Barnes said.

The boy, who is 15 years old, jumped a perimeter fence early Sunday and entered the wheel well of the Boeing aircraft with no idea where the plane was going, FBI Special Agent in Honolulu Tom Simon said.

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His intention was simply to run away from his family home in Santa Clara, he did not know the city the plane would take off to or that he would have to fly over the Pacific Ocean to get there, Simon said.

The plane was Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45, its destination Maui.  It took off at 7:55 a.m. Sunday, flew non-stop and landed in Kahului Airport at 10:25 a.m. local time, Barnes said.

The city of San Jose will not pursue a criminal complaint against the juvenile "based upon the current information available," Barnes said in a statement.

The airport, the FBI, TSA and San Jose police are still investigating the boy's actions that led him to get past security and onto the airliner's wheel well, Barnes said.

His remarkable flight as a stowaway has attracted international attention and San Jose airport officials on Monday defended the adequacy of security there in light of the breach.

"SJC's security program meets and exceeds all federal requirements and we have an excellent track record," Barnes said.

She mentioned that the airport would be working on its security organization with San Jose police and the TSA. She admitted that "no system is 100 percent and it is possible to scale an airport fence line, especially under cover of darkness, and remain undetected."

The FBI decided earlier on Monday against filing federal charges against the stowaway after determining he posed no danger to civil aviation and did not intend to threaten the flight, according to Simon.

"This was not something he planned out," Simon said. "My impression is that he ran for the first flight he saw."

"His intention was to run away from home," Simon said.

The teen, who is not being named, lost consciousness during the

flight due to lack of oxygen thousands of feet in the air and remained so for an hour after the plane landed in Maui, Simon said.

After he stepped out of the wheel well and onto the tarmac in Maui, airport and security personnel escorted him away to be interviewed by local police and the FBI, according to Simon.

The teen reported that he had run away from home. Simon said his story was investigated and checked out and there was no indication it was a hoax.

In a statement on Monday, Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Alison Croyle said the airline's "primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived."

"Hawaiian and its contractors responsible for handling our aircraft in San Jose are ready to assist various government agencies in their investigation of this incident," Croyle said.



© Copyright 2014 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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