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Father says teen stowaway was having school troubles

Posted at 12:38 PM, Apr 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-24 12:38:55-04

(CNN) — The 15-year-old who sneaked onto a flight from California to Hawaii has been facing difficult times at school, a man identified as his father said in a published report.

The boy, originally from Somalia, “did not receive education when he was in Africa,” the man told the Voice of America’s Somali service. “Since we came here, he had learning challenges at school. He was not good at math and science, and I think he had a lot of education problems bothering him.”

The boy’s story has stunned people around the world because he somehow managed to survive the flight to Maui hidden in a wheel well of a Boeing 767.

“When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy,” his father said, according to VOA.

He described his son as a “really cool boy,” a “very quiet person, always busy with watching the TV and using computer.”

“He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live,” the man said. “We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions, we can’t go back.”

The teen — who has not been publicly identified — has told investigators that he was trying to get to Somalia to see his mother, and had no clue which plane went where, a law enforcement official told CNN. He is said to have hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport shortly after 1 a.m. on Sunday, the dark of night cloaking his intentions.

He stayed on the grounds for six hours without getting caught, a government official said.

The boy told authorities that he crawled into the wheel well and lost consciousness when the plane took off. He survived the nearly five-hour flight in subzero temperatures at oxygen-depleted heights as high as 38,000 feet, authorities believe.

Discovered after he apparently regained consciousness in Hawaii, the boy has been recovering at a hospital, according to a state health official.

He is in the custody of Hawaii Child Welfare Services workers, said Kayla Rosenfeld, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Human Services.

“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 told CNN affiliate KGO.

“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.

Once he’s ready to go home to California, he’ll have access to counselors and psychologists, Santa Clara High School Principal Gregory Shelby told KGO.

The teen, who recently transferred to Santa Clara High, is now the talk of the school.

Emanuael Golla, a senior, said the boy was extremely shy. He told CNN that he had just arrived within the past few weeks.

CNN’s Dana Ford, Mayra Cuevas and Dan Simon contributed to this report.