April 24, 2014 / 4:21 PM / in 4 years

Father thanks God for stowaway son's survival on Hawaii flight

April 24 (Reuters) - A Somali immigrant whose 15-year-old son survived a flight from California to Hawaii stowed away amid freezing temperatures and low oxygen levels in the wheel well of a jet said in a radio interview that he thanks God his son is alive.

The 15-year-old boy from the San Francisco Bay area city of Santa Clara, who ran away from home and sneaked into Mineta San Jose International Airport to creep into a Boeing 767 that took off on Sunday, is one of a fraction of stowaways to walk away alive from such a treacherous trip.

“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,” Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, the father, told Voice of America’s Somali service in an interview on Wednesday.

Authorities have not released the boy’s name, but his father identified him to Voice of America as Yahya Abdi.

The five-and-a-half-hour Hawaiian Airlines flight from San Jose to the Hawaiian island of Maui reached an altitude of 38,000 feet (11,582 meters) with temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit (62 degrees Celsius below zero), causing the boy to pass out quickly, the FBI has said.

Medical experts have said the cold likely reduced his brain’s need for oxygen, making it possible for him to survive.

The boy remained in a Hawaii hospital on Wednesday under protective custody of child welfare authorities, Kayla Rosenfeld, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Human Services, said in an email. She did not release any details on his condition and could not immediately be reached on Thursday.

When asked what could have led his son to climb into the plane, Abdi told Voice of America the boy was having trouble at school in Santa Clara.

“He did not receive education when he was in Africa,” Abdi told Voice of America. “Since we came here he had learning challenges at school.”

The boy told investigators he was trying to travel to Somalia to see his mother, a law enforcement official told CNN.

“He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live,” Abdi told Voice of America. “We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can’t go back.” (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; editing by Andrew Hay)

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