South Georgia hostage reportedly alive in Colombia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia hostage reportedly alive in Colombia

May 17, 2007

Miller County - - While it hasn't been confirmed, there may be some good news for friends and family of a Miller County man. Keith Stansell is one of three military contractors kidnapped by a rebel militia group in Colombia known as FARC.

The men were on a drug surveillance mission when their plane crashed in February 2003. They were the only survivors of that crash. Wednesday, their family members got word the hostages are still alive.

For almost four years, friends and families of the three men captured have wondered whether their loved ones are still alive. Wednesday, an officer who fled from the same jungle camp where Stansell is being held acknowledged the three men are still alive.

"They were of course very very excited when they heard the news," says Charlotte Phillips who just got off the phone with Keith Stansell's family.

She is a good friend of the family and knew Keith before he was kidnapped in Columbia.

"The only down side was how they received word that they were chained at the neck at night and of course that worried them."

Despite the excruciating details of how the hostages are being treated, Phillips says Stansell's family is relieved to know he's still alive. His 14 year old son Kyle woke up to the news.

"He got up and turned on the TV and the first news he heard was about his dad."

Since the capture in 2003, Phillips says Stansell has missed important family events, like his daughter's high school graduation and his son growing into a young man.

"They've just been able to carry on in the face of not knowing whether their father was dead or alive."

Now that they know their father is ok, they're hoping things will stay that way, especially since the officer who escaped is sharing information about the jungle camp.

"I'm just praying that they wont take any retribution against the Americans...in retaliation for him escaping or anything."

In the meantime, Phillips and Stansell's family remain optimistic and if they could tell him one thing...

"I would tell him that he has not been forgotten."

Stansell's family has been sending messages to him through Columbian newspapers and radio. They want the government to ask the officer who escaped if the hostages have been receiving their messages.

Stansell's two children now live with his parents in Florida. They get regular updates on the situation from the State Department.

FARC rejected the Colombian president's request to release the American hostages in exchange for freeing 300 jailed rebels.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=hostage/bs