Stowaway Found Alive in Jet's Wheel Well

ByABC News

L O S   A N G E L E S, Aug. 5, 2000 -- A nearly frozen stowaway survived subzerotemperatures and little oxygen at 38,000 feet inside the wheel well of a jumbo jet on an eight-hour flight fromTahiti.

The 6-foot, 180-pound man, who remainsunidentified, was responding to treatment and communicating withdoctors Friday, but he was covered with gear oil and moaning whenparamedics arrived at Los Angeles International Airport Thursdaynight.

His core body temperature was 79 degrees Fahrenheitwhen he arrived at the UCLA Medical Center for treatment ofhypothermia and dehydration, hospital spokesman David Langnesssaid.

With the jet traveling 600 mph at 38,000 feet, the air temperature would have been below zero, “and whoknows with the wind chill,” Langness said.

‘A Remarkable Story’

“His clothes were shredded from the wind, and he was coveredwith grease,” he said. “It is a remarkable story. We don’t knowof any other person whose body temperature dropped this low who hassurvived.”

Anything below 85 degrees Fahrenheit is usuallyfatal, Langness said.

The man was moved Friday afternoon from the intensive care unitto a hospital ward floor, Langness said.

The man is able to write notes in French and English butresponds indirectly when asked about his identity, Langness said.He cannot speak, and doctors are still testing his brain and organfunctions.

Air France Flight 71 from Papeete, French Polynesia, arrived inLos Angeles. At the terminal gate, a maintenance worker spotted ablanket hanging from a wheel well on the Boeing 747-400 andnotified authorities when he found the man.

Air France Responsible?

An Immigration and Naturalization Service spokeswoman saidFriday that the agency considered Air France still responsible forthe man’s custody.

“This individual, as any individual seeking to enter the UnitedStates, needs to undergo an eligibility investigation,” saidVirginia Kice of the INS’ seven-state western regional office.

“The INS’ first concern is the health and well-being of thisindividual,” she said, adding that any Customs inspection ordeportation process would wait until the man’s health was not atrisk.

A call placed to Air France was answered by a recording.

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