The mother of a 15-year-old California teenager who stowed away in the wheel well of Hawaii-bound airliner told Voice of America radio that her son had recently learned that she was alive after being told by his father she had died.
Speaking from a refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia, Ubah Mohamed Adbdullahi told VOA that she believed her son risked his life trying to reach her, according to the Associated Press.
"I know he was looking for me, and I am requesting the U.S. government to help me reunite with my kids," she told the international radio station. The boy's parents are divorced, and he lives with his father, Abdilahi Yusuf Abdi, a cab driver in Santa Clara in the Bay Area.
The slight teenager, indentified to Voice of America by his father as Yahya Abdi, appears to have spent up to six hours undetected at the San Jose airport last Sunday before sneaking inside the wheel well of a Maui-bound jet, according to a federal law enforcement official.
The boy, first seen on a security camera video, would not appear again until later Sunday morning, when airline workers spotted him 2,350 miles to the west, walking on the tarmac at Kahului Airport.
In the interim, authorities say, the boy survived a perilous, 5½-hour odyssey, enduring frigid temperatures, oxygen deprivation and a compartment unfit for human habitation as he traveled over the Pacific Ocean in the jet's wheel well.
The incident prompted authorities to question both how the teen so easily gained access to the jumbo jet and how he survived with so little trauma.
When asked why the teen may have taken the journey, his father said: "He did not receive education when he was in Africa. 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 father told VOA his son often talked about Africa.
"He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live," he said. "We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can't go back."
Abdullahi told VOA that her ex-husband took their three children to California without her knowledge, and that she hadn't heard from them since 2006, according to the Associated Press. She said she was sure her son was trying to find her.
"I cried, felt badly and many people in the refugee camp came to me to give me support," she said after learning the news of his odyssey.
She said her dream was to live with her children in the United States.