Teen miraculously survives flight in wheel well

, Written by Kassi Nelson, Posted: Mon, April 21 2014 at 6:31 PM, Updated: Tue, April 22 2014 at 10:10 AM

Medford, Ore. -- At Jet Center Medford pilot Monte George is stumped as to how a 15 year-old boy survived a flight in the wheel well of an airplane.

"Those compartments aren't made for passengers," George said.

He said it sounds like something out of a movie. Authorities said the teen hopped the fence at the San Jose Airport in California Sunday morning and climbed into the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines Boeing 767 jet. Five hours later, he landed in Hawaii. And lived to tell about it.

"It's the first time I've heard of someone surviving something like that," George said.

George has been flying for over 40 years. He's heard cases of people trying to hitch rides in the wheel compartment, but he said they usually only survive minutes above 20,000 feet. The compartment reaches subzero temperatures, and lacks oxygen.

"There may have been something this young man could do that no one else could," he said.

George also said the teen risked being crushed when the wheel folded up inside, or falling out on the runway during landing. Authorities said the boy was unconscious for most of the flight that reached 38,000 feet and freezing temperatures.

Dr. Robin Miller said the teen making it out alive is a medical mystery.

"At 38,000 feet. Think about it, Mount Everest is 29,000 feet and people die up there without oxygen tanks," Miller said.

But the freezing temperatures could have actually aided in his survival.

"You wouldn't need as much oxygen if you're frozen," Miller said.

San Jose International's Security Administration is working with investigators to determine how the incident happened. They said surveillance video is being reviewed to determine where the teen was able to hop the fence.


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About the Author

Kassi Nelson

NBC5 News reporter Kassi Nelson was born and raised in Nebraska. She graduated from the journalism school at University of Nebraska Lincoln where she studied broadcasting.

She also studied philosophy in the Czech Republic. Kassi has visited nine other countries including Sochi, Russia, where she reported on the preparations for the 2014 Olympic Games.

She loves skiing and live concerts!

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