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Teen jet stowaway 'a good kid' but struggling, dad says

By Matt Smith and Kevin Bohn, CNN
updated 7:34 PM EDT, Sun April 27, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Abdulahi Yusuf releases a statement through a San Francisco-area Islamic group
  • He says his son, Yahya Yusuf, has had trouble adapting to life in the United States
  • He plans to escort his son back to California from Hawaii

(CNN) -- The father of the teen who survived a flight to Hawaii in the wheel well of a jetliner says his son is "a good kid" who has struggled to adjust to life in America.

In a statement released through a San Francisco-area Islamic group, Abdulahi Yusuf said he and his family came to the United States from war-torn Somalia. He identified his son as Yahya Yusuf and said he plans to escort his son back to California from Hawaii.

The 15-year-old Yahya told authorities that he crawled into the wheel well of the Hawaii-bound Boeing 767 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.

How stowaway could hide in wheel well

"Our family was deeply concerned when my son went missing, and we were relieved to hear of his safety considering the circumstances of his trip," Abdulahi Yusuf said in a statement issued by the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"My son, like many immigrant children, is struggling adjusting to life in this country," he said. "Our situation was aggravated by our displacement in Africa for many years after fleeing our home country of Somalia because of war conditions. As a result, my son was not able to receive any formal education before we immigrated to the United States. Yahya is a good kid who I love dearly."

Discovered after he apparently regained consciousness on Maui, the teen has been recovering at a hospital and is in the custody of the state's child welfare agency, officials there said. He 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 last week.

He is said to have hopped a fence at San Jose International Airport shortly after 1 a.m. April 20 and stayed on the grounds for six hours without getting caught, a government official said.

Yusuf said he's headed to Hawaii soon, "and am excited to bring him back home to his family in California. We thank everybody for their concern and support, and ask that people continue to respect our privacy during this incredibly difficult time."

Teen stowaway was tired, quiet and hungry after plane's landing

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