A 15-year-old teen is reportedly OK after sneaking into the stowaway section of a Hawaii-bound plane in San Jose. Kimberly Tere reports.
A woman who said she is the older sister of the 15-year-old boy who hid in the wheel well of a plane and flew from San Jose to Hawaii unharmed denied reports that he had an argument with his family before he decided to become an overseas stowaway.
In a short interview from her Santa Clara home on Monday, the woman spoke off camera with NBC Bay Area in halting English, and in a calm tone that didn't reveal her brother's harrowing tale: That the teenager scaled a fence at San Jose International Airport on Sunday morning, hid in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines flight, and survived the flight across the Pacific Ocean, despite being unconscious for the 5 1/2-hour trip. All the while, authorities said the temperature sank to below minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Department of Human Services in Hawaii said on Monday that the teen was in the care of Child Welfare Services, and the agency is doing what needs to be done to "ensure the child's safe return to his home in California."
The sister also denied reports that her brother got in a fight with family at home before he took off on his journey, which has raised questions about airport security. She spoke only briefly, and answered with a simple "no," when asked whether her brother ran away because of an argument. The sister also said her brother was "OK" physically after the trip. She declined to say any more.
Outside the family's home, family members arrived - without the teen - in a taxi, which pulled into the garage. Relatives did not want to speak and they closed the door. A neighbor called them "perfectly nice."
The sister's response seems to be in stark opposition to the story that emerged on Sunday, which was investigated by the FBI.
In a phone interview on Monday from Hawaii, FBI Special Agent Tom Simon said that agents interviewed the boy, corroborated his story, and turned the teen over to child services in Hawaii until he could be reunited with his family.
"We're done," he told NBC Bay Area. "There's no case here."
Simon added that the boy did not commit any crimes in Hawaii and will not be charged by the FBI there. Simon said it is not his agency's jurisdiction to determine whether the teen committed any other crimes by allegedly hopping the fence in San Jose.
Back in California, San Jose Police Sgt. Heather Randol said the "event was documented" and was "will be reviewed" by the District Attorney for any pending charges.
As for the teen's journey - flying at an altitude of 38,000 feet with no oxygen and coming out unscathed - Simon said: "Clearly, it's amazing."
The Associated Press reported that security footage from the San Jose airport verified that the Santa Clara teen hopped a fence to get to Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 on Sunday at 7:55 a.m.
Simon said when the flight landed in Maui at 10:25 a.m. Hawaii time, the boy hopped down from the wheel well and started wandering around the airport grounds.
"He was unconscious for the lion's share of the flight," Simon said.
According to the FAA, the last known survivor of a stowaway incident was in August 2013 on a domestic flight within Nigeria, Africa. Since 1947, the FAA has recorded 94 stowaway incidents involving 105 people. Of those, only 25 survived.
The teen's misadventure -- including scaling a six-foot high barbed wire fence at the airport -- immediately raised security questions. A Congressman who serves on the Homeland Security committee wondered how the teen could have snuck onto the airfield at San Jose unnoticed.
"I have long been concerned about security at our airport perimeters. #Stowaway teen demonstrates vulnerabilities that need to be addressed," tweeted Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who represents the San Francisco Bay Area's eastern cities and suburbs.
Rosemary Barnes, a spokeswoman for Mineta San Jose International Airport, said airport police were working with the FBI, San Jose police, and the Transportation Security Agency to review security at the facility as part of an investigation. A TSA spokeswoman on Monday, however, said the breach is not a TSA matter.
San Jose's airport issued a statement saying "SJC's security program meets and exceeds all federal requirements and we have an excellent track record...Despite this, no system is 100 percent and it is possible to scale an airport fenceline, especially under cover of darkness and remain undetected."
NBC Bay Area's Chase Cain and Oskar Garcia from the Associated Press contributed to this report.