Teen Airplane Stowaway Wanted to Go to Africa, Says Father

04/24/2014 at 08:55 AM EDT

Hawaiian Airlines Teen Stowaway Wanted to Go to Africa: Father
16-year-old boy (on a stretcher) who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui
Chris Sugidono/The Maui News/AP
The 15-year-old boy who survived a five-and-a-half hour flight from San Jose, Calif., to Hawaii hidden in an airplane's wheel well this week may have been trying to get back to his native Somalia, says his father, who praised God for keeping his son alive.

"He was always talking about going back to Africa, where his grandparents still live," the father tells Voice of America. "We want to go back, but due to the current living conditions we can't go back."

"When I watched the analysis about the extraordinary and dangerous trip of my son on local TVs and that Allah had saved him, I thanked God and I was very happy," the father added.

The boy – originally thought to be 16, though authorities now say 15 – told San Jose police that he he was trying to find his mother in a refugee camp in Somalia, having only recently found out that she was alive, Hawaii News Now reports.

The boy, who is recovering in a Hawaii hospital and should be back in California soon, likely survived the extremely low temperatures and oxygen levels by falling unconscious and entering a hibernation-like state of hypothermia.

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