A 15-year-old who holed up in the wheel well of a plane that climbed above 35,000 feet wasn't scared during his journey: He was just determined to be reunited with his mother.
"I took that plane because it was the closest one I could find that was going west," Yahya Abdi, the California teen who miraculously survived the five-and-a-half hour flight from San Jose to Hawaii, told San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX in an exclusive interview.
It was the first time since Abdi's death-defying trip on April 20 that he has spoken publicly. In the Google Chat interview with KPIX, the Somali immigrant confessed that he ran away from his Santa Clara home because he hadn't seen his mom since he was 7 years old.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
"I only did it because I didn’t want to live with my stepmom. Second of all, I wanted to find my mom. I haven’t seen her since I was young,” he told KPIX.
Abdi spoke to his mom, who lives in a U.N. refugee camp in Ethiopia, for the first time on Tuesday.
“I was telling her I wanted her to live with me in America,” he said.
Abdi said he has no injuries, and has regained the hearing that he lost from the flight. He recalled crouching in the wheel well and covering his ears as the Boeing 767 took off.
"It was above the clouds. I could see through the little holes," he told KPIX.
Abdi added that he wasn't scared, but that he couldn't believe he survived the trip. And he had advice for other teens considering similar great escapes: "They shouldn't run away because sometimes they end up dying."
The teen, who will be a junior in high school in the fall, is currently staying at a temporary foster home. After he graduates, Adbi plans to join the Army, he said.
In the near future, he hopes to live with his aunt near Minneapolis, but does not know yet if the Transportation Security Administration will allow him to fly to Minnesota.
Both the TSA and the FBI were contacted when Adbi was found disoriented while walking on the Kahului, Maui, tarmac after surviving freezing cold temperatures and a near-lack of oxygen to get there.
— Elizabeth Chuck