Yahya Abdi, the teenager who miraculously survived that flight to Hawaii on April 20 stowed away in the plane's wheel well,
is back in Santa Clara County and in the custody of the county's Department of Family & Children's Services, as the Mercury News reports. The 15-year-old Somali refugee and Santa Clara High student spent at least 10 days hospitalized on the island of Maui suffering breathing problems before being transferred to the custody of Hawaii's Department of Human Services. As of Friday night it appears they put him on a plane, possibly accompanied a social worker.
Abdi's story has unfolded as one microcosm of the traumas and difficulties refugees face, and in his case there seems to be a family-drama component as well. Perhaps seeking attention and not wanting to be vilified in the media, Abdi's father reportedly flew to Hawaii last week bearing clothing and gifts for his son, but was denied contact with him.
Abdi survived the 5 1/2-hour Maui-bound flight on April 20 despite sub-freezing temperatures, a lack of oxygen, and extreme altitudes, telling authorities that he'd run away from home and jumped the fence at San Jose's airport and stowed away after having a fight with his father and stepmother. More of the story has unfolded suggesting that he and two other siblings from his father's first marriage were allegedly mistreated by the father and stepmother and told that their birth mother had been killed in a rocket attack in Mogadishu. They also have six younger children from the second marriage. The three eldest children only recently discovered that their mother is alive and living in an Ethiopian refugee camp. Yahya Abdi cited wanting to reunite with his mother as another reason for running away.
The father and stepmother have denied any mistreatment of Abdi, the father calling him "a good kid who I love dearly." But Abdi has apparently struggled to fit in and adjust to American life, having recently transferred high schools as well. The family moved to the area eight years ago, in 2006, when Abdi would have been 7.
It remains to be seen when or if Santa Clara social services will return him to the custody of his parents.