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Teen Stowaway Walked Right Through San Jose Airport Security Gap

There hasn't been enough attention to securing the perimeters of airports, policy-makers and security experts say.
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Surveillance video at two airports shows how a 16-year-old boy managed to stow away in the wheel well of a flight from California to Hawaii — He simply climbed a fence without anyone stopping him, authorities told NBC News on Monday.

The boy from Santa Clara, Calif., who is believed to have run away after an argument with his father, first hopped a fence Sunday at about 1 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) near a fuel farm at Mineta San Jose International Airport, officials said.

About 12 minutes later, video shows him climbing into the wheel well of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45, which was parked between gates two and three. He apparently chose the plane at random, authorities said.

The jet plane landed at Kahului Airport at 10:30 a.m. local (4:30 p.m. ET) Sunday.

About 45 minutes later, the boy can be seen on video at that airport climbing out of the left main landing gear wheel — disoriented but in good condition, despite having been unconscious with little oxygen for most of the 5½-hour flight. Airline personnel immediately noticed him on the tarmac and called authorities.

While the fact that the boy beat the odds of survival is good news, the episode raises troubling questions about security at airports.

Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee, said on Twitter that the incident "demonstrates vulnerabilities that need to be addressed."

As for the San Jose airport in particular, Johnathan Tal, chief executive of TAL Global, an international security company, said it was clear that "there hasn't been the investment needed in fencing perimeter protection."

The FBI's Honolulu office said the boy committed no crime in Hawaii and wouldn't be charged there. San Jose police told NBC Bay Area that "the event was documented" and would be reviewed for possible charges.

Officials in Maui said that the boy was released to the State of Hawaii Department of Human Services and his family in California had been contacted.

In a statement, Hawaiian Air said, "our primary concern now is for the well being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived."

The plane is already back in service and the airport is investigating the incident, authorities told NBC News.