TAHITIAN STOWAWAY: "I JUST WANTED TO CHANGE MY LIFE"

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PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (August 15, 2000 – Oceania Flash/SPC)---The 25-year-old Tahitian stowaway who survived an icy trip in the undercarriage of an Air France jet told the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti that he "just wanted to change (his) life."

In an interview with the daily, Fidèle Maruhi explained the motives behind a move that experts say could have cost him his life.

Maruhi traveled for eight hours between Tahiti and Los Angeles in the Boeing's one-square-meter undercarriage and experienced temperatures averaging -30°C.

He had managed to steal airport uniforms and slide into the plane unnoticed. But the young Tahitian, who is to appear in a Pape‘ete court shortly, did not want to elaborate on how he managed to board the plane.

"This must remain a secret."

A Los Angeles airport employee, during a normal re-fuelling stopover, noticed a piece of blanket sticking out of the plane's nose.

"I was barefoot, only had shorts, a sweat-shirt, a hood and the jacket I stole from the airport."

Mahuri was found with no identity papers or money.

"I had no food either."

He said he fell unconscious five minutes after take-off from Pape‘ete and only woke up at the L.A. hospital, where he was admitted in critical hypothermic condition.

But he seems to have recovered well since.

"I'm just fine," he said.

He admitted he experienced "hell."

"If I had known it was that hard, I would have never started this adventure."

He is still using crutches.

Doctors in Pape‘ete have said his survival is "miraculous."

"I wanted to see France and Paris. Now I just want to find a job."

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