TODAY

TODAY   |  April 21, 2014

‘Lucky’ boy, 16, stows away in plane’s wheel well

Officials say that a 16-year-old boy who was reportedly running away from his home in Santa Clara, Calif., when he stowed away in the wheel well of a plane heading to Hawaii is lucky to be alive after surviving frigid temperatures and lack of oxygen as the flight traveled halfway across the Pacific Ocean. NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reports.

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>>> now to a remarkable story overnight. a 16-year-old lucky to be alive after thank you stowing away in the wheel well of a flight from california to hawaii. nbc's pete williams has more.

>> reporter: the fbi says his survival on the long flight to maui is miraculous, given the high altitude and frigid cold. they say he was running away from home and stowed away on the plane with no clue where it was going. authorities say the 16-year-old from santa clara , california, hopped a fence at the san jose airport, then climbed into the wheel well of hawaiian airlines flight 45, but they say he had no idea where the plane was headed. the boeing 767 jet left shortly after 8:00 a.m . sunday in san jose and landed in kahului on the island of maui more than five hours later. another hour after arrival, the fbi says a witness saw the 16-year-old hop down from the wheel well. the authorities say he was unconscious for most of the flight, which reached an altitude of 38,000 feet with freezing temperatures.

>> within a few minutes up at that altitude, the person would pass out. usually, they would not survive for, you know, hours on end up there. so it just boggles the mind.

>> reporter: officials say the boy was found by airport workers. he was carrying only a comb for his hair. the maui news agency says this picture shows him on a gurney being taken to the hospital.

>> he looked pretty good from what i could see. you know, again, young juvenile. didn't appear to be dirty or all greased up from being in a wheel well.

>> reporter: authorities say the boy claims he got into an argument with his family and ran away from home . hawaiian airlines issued a statement saying, our primary concern now is for the well-being of the boy, who is exceptionally lucky to have survived. no charges have been filed so far. he cleared a medical check-up and has been turned over to hawaii's child welfare department . and now the fbi is looking into how he managed to breach airport security in san jose in the first place. tamron?

>> incredible story, pete. thank you very much.