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SJ Airport Defends Security After Teen Stows Away in Wheel Well on Flight to Maui

Now the FBI, TSA and San Jose police are investigating the weekend incident -- a shocking tale of survival for Santa Clara teen, 16.

Mineta San José International Airport. Wikimedia.
Mineta San José International Airport. Wikimedia.
A spokeswoman for San Jose Mineta International Airport today defended the airport's security measures, saying that "no system is 100 percent" after a 16-year-old boy stowed away Sunday in an airplane wheel well during a five-hour flight to Maui.

The boy leapt over an SJC airport perimeter fence, crossed an airport ramp and entered the wheel well of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45, which took off at 7:55 a.m. Sunday, airport spokeswoman Rosemary Barnes said.

The teenager from Santa Clara survived the non-stop flight of the Boeing 767 airliner over the Pacific Ocean to Kahului Airport in Maui, where it landed at 10:25 a.m. local time, Barnes said.

"First, we are thankful the teenager survived the journey," Barnes said in a statement. "He was very lucky. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family."

Barnes said that the FBI, the Transportation Security Administration and San Jose police are conducting investigations along with the airport into the incident.

The teen apparently scaled the fence and entered the wheel well before dawn early Sunday, according to Barnes.

"SJC's security program meets and exceeds all federal requirements and we have an excellent track record," she said. "We work closely with TSA and (the) San Jose Police Department to secure airport property, including the outer perimeter," Barnes said.

"Our program includes surveillance video equipment." "Despite this, no system is 100 percent and it is possible to scale an airport fence line, especially under cover of darkness, and remain undetected," she said.

FBI Special Agent Tom Simon in Honolulu said that the teen lost consciousness during the flight due to lack of oxygen and remained unconscious for an hour after the plane landed in Maui.

The boy stepped out of the wheel well and onto the tarmac an hour after the plane landed. Airport and security personnel escorted him off of the tarmac and then local police and FBI officials interviewed him, according to Simon.

The teen told officials that he had run away from home in Santa Clara. Simon said his story was investigated and checked out.

There was no indication that it was a hoax and the boy was deemed not to be a security threat.

Simon was shocked that the boy survived the flight, passed a medical examination and was determined to be in good health.

"It's a miracle," Simon said.

The teen was released to Child Protective Services and no charges have been filed against him.

-- Bay City News
Herbert GARY Maxwell April 22, 2014 at 11:41 AM
Fences of all sorts have never stopped determined intruders. To assist in stopping intruders, sensor pads embedded at all fence perimeters (very expensive) and quick action response guards posted in close proximity at several nearby posts (very,very expensive) would be required. There is no such thing as perfect security. For wheel wells, perhaps an inexpensive sensor could be installed.

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