Commentary: Mystery of the stowaway boy who fell from the sky

The Charlotte ObserverApril 14, 2011 

He loved martial-arts movies.

He wanted his first car to be a Mustang.

He had just turned 16.

He was afraid of heights.

His name was Delvonte Tisdale.

At 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 15, US Airways Flight 1176 took off from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, bound for Boston.

Delvonte was inside the left wheel well.


Arrange the facts a certain way, piece the jagged edges together, and you start to see a picture. But the picture doesn't speak. Nothing in it says why.

A lot of people want to know the how. How, exactly, did Delvonte Tisdale get onto airport grounds and hide inside a commercial airliner? And if a 16-year-old could do it, why not a terrorist?

These are important questions, and authorities owe us the answers. But this is more personal. The idea this morning is to talk about why.

Back in November, right after it happened, a couple of relatives said Delvonte was homesick for his mom in Baltimore. But there's no hard evidence to back that up, and nobody's talking now. Several relatives declined to comment. Others didn't return messages. Delvonte's mother, Jonette Washington, sent a message two weeks ago agreeing to answer some questions. I sent a few. She never wrote back.

Delvonte's father, Anthony Tisdale, said Washington was planning to visit Charlotte for Thanksgiving. So if Delvonte missed his mom, he was due to see her in a week.

Delvonte's body was found the night of the day he disappeared. He ended up 700 air miles from home, splayed on a lawn in a Massachusetts town, about where the Boeing 737 jet lowered its wheels before landing in Boston. His handprint was later found inside the wheel well.

Charlotte police investigated. Their report is not yet public. A three-page summary doesn't talk much about the how. It says this about the why:

"Investigators also could not determine what motivated Mr. Tisdale to travel to the airport and stow away on the airplane."

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