July 2, 2008
South Georgian Keith Stansell was among 15 hostages rescued Wednesday from FARC rebels in Colombia. The Colombian military apparently tricked the rebels into thinking helicopters from a charity organization were going to transfer the hostages to another camp. The military was flying the choppers. The State Department quickly got word to Stansell's family.
From his home near Tampa, Florida, Stansell's son Kyle said "My step-dad calls me and tells me my dad's home. I didn't even know what to do. I just started freaking out, screaming and yelling, and I ran as fast as I could off the beach."
Stansell and two other American defense contractors were taken hostage in 2003. They were on a drug interdiction mission when their plane crashed near a rebel camp. At the time, Stansell and his two children lived in Miller County. Family friend Charlotte Phillips said, "Everybody in Colquitt knew him, and they loved him, and they loved the children. The children went to school here and everything, and so they were just part of our family."
Stansell's daughter Lauren was 14 and his son Kyle was 9 when he disappeared. Phillips remains got the good news of Stansell's rescue this afternoon when Lauren called her. "She was saying 'daddy's coming home, daddy's coming home.' And she said 'they're gonna fly us to San Antonio tonight, I'll get to see my daddy tonight.' And she says, 'I love you Mama Day, I love you.' And I said 'I love you to baby.' And she was just really happy. She was crying and she was laughing."
The FARC rebels occassionally released video of Stansell and his fellow hostages over the years, so the family believed he was still alive and okay. But today's news took them by surprise. "As far as we know, everything's going fine. I'm just ready to see my dad. I don't even know what to think as of right now," Kyle said.
The American hostages were scheduled to arrive at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas around midnight where they will be reunited with their relatives.