Relative talks about stowaway teen's struggles

The father of a 15-year-old stowaway gives new insight why his son was trying to head to Africa.
April 23, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
It can't be easy for a person, of any age, to transplant themselves from Somalia to Silicon Valley. ABC7 News spoke exclusively to a relative who said the key reason the teenage stowaway ran away can be tied to defiance of his stepmother.

The 15-year-old stowaway hid inside the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines and survived the 5.5-hour flight from San Jose to Maui.

The teenager appears to have decided life would be better in Africa than with his father and stepmother in Santa Clara. We get the impression he begrudged having to do chores around the house.

Mukhtar Guled is the cousin of the teenager's stepmother. He's an insurance broker in San Jose and he talked exclusively to ABC7 News.

"He has to watch the house, do the dishes, and even cleaning. He thought he was not supposed to do that. He didn't want to take it. The other children, willing to take it, but he wasn't," said Guled.

The resistance to listening to his stepmother, Guled believes, is that the teenager only learned recently that the woman was not his biological mother.

"'This woman is not my mom and is treating me like this. And don't do anything about it. I need my mother,'" said Guled.

So, the Santa Clara High School student jumped the fence at Mineta San Jose International and hid in the wheel well of a 767.

Guled: "He was running away from pain of some sort."
Louie: "Will his parents reject him? Are they ashamed?"
Guled: "Forty-eight hours after he's been reported missing, they never reported it to the police."

Santa Clara police tell us there is no missing persons report for the teenager.

The runaway's father spoke to a Somali-speaking reporter at Voice of America about his son. The family emigrated from Somalia about seven years ago. He transferred to Santa Clara High School recently from San Jose's Oak Grove High School.

"He had a tough time with his school work, his math class, science. He didn't study while in Africa. Starting high school in here was difficult," the father told Voice of America.

We're told the stowaway has an older sister and a younger brother, who have been staying with relatives in a San Jose apartment, but we were turned away there and at another relative's apartment.

Manager reveals details of teen's stowaway survival

The Maui airport manager who talked with a teen about his incredible stowaway survival is shedding new light on the boy's experience.

"He was really soft spoken and appeared to be tired. His answers were a little slow initially coming out," Maui District Airport Manager Marvin Moniz said.

Moniz describes the 15-year-old's condition after it was discovered he survived the flight.

"We did get him some food prior to the paramedics getting here. We asked if he was hungry. He indicated yes he was. We got him some teriyaki meatballs and rice and a package of cookies and a bottle of water," Moniz said.

With his health seemingly intact, Moniz asked the teen why he did it.

"It appeared that there was an argument at home. Some disagreement with his dad and his stepmom so he decided to you know leave," Moniz said.

The teenager said he wanted to find his biological mother in Somalia, the woman he last last saw when he was 2 years old.

"I said, you know, 'How did you get on that airplane?' He says, 'Well, I jumped the fence.' So I tried to ask him was this a wooden fence? A chain-link fence? And he says, 'Oh well, I just saw some cars parked in a corner and I went over there and I jumped the fence.'"

Officials who have seen the surveillance video from the San Jose International Airport say the teenager got into the wheel well around 1 a.m. Which means he was there undetected for about seven hours before the plane took off.

Despite experts saying it would have been 50 degrees below zero in the wheel well, the teenager told Moniz he remembered being hot, but not much else.

"Obviously being up at 35 or 30,000 feet for that period of time would be pretty interesting. You know he mentioned that he blacked out, so you know he must have been out for the whole time," Moniz said.

The teenager is recovering and resting comfortably at a hospital in Honolulu. He's in the custody of Children's Services and multiple agencies working to get him back home as soon as possible.


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