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Former American Hostages Hold Press Conference About OrdealAired March 3, 2001 - 5:04 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: And now we want to take you to a news conference regarding the return to U.S. soil of five employees of American companies who were in the captured in the jungles of Ecuador. They are now back hear and this news conference is just getting under way.
Let's join it live.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dennis, Jason and Steve Holms(ph)?
It is tremendous relief all of us to see them back. So, welcome home, guys.
I would also like to express gratitude and extreme admiration to the families who have worked together with us through thick and thin throughout this traumatic experience.
Gentlemen, you have every reason to be very proud of your families, as they have been proud of you. Their faith and support has been felt by myself and the rest of Erickson's management and employment, and has been a positive asset to the resolution of this dreadful incident. And we thank you.
I'll turn this over to Scott.
SCOTT PULPIT: Hello. We're ready to entertain the questions, that you may have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
QUESTION: How does it feel to be home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excellent. [laughter]
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Real good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't describe it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Incredible.
QUESTION: What was the first thing you did when you got home?
QUESTION: Steve first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this a family program?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just said,"hi," to our families was the first thing we did.
JASON WEBER, FORMER HOSTAGE: Lots of talking. Lots of talking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big sigh of relief.
QUESTION: Did you ever think that you weren't going to make it out of there?
WEBER: You know, it's hard to -- don't know what you think sometimes. It's -- sometimes you think no, but then again, we knew we had good family at home and was bound to make it somehow, so. That's what kept us all strong.
QUESTION: Can you tell us about your treatment?
WEBER: Do you want to go?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did the best we could under the conditions we were under. We became -- we just adapted to what we were going through.
QUESTION: Very sorry about your friend, Ron Sander. What did you think when he was released?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That, that's an area that I think that we would -- this is not the place for that, and we're not going to comment on that.
QUESTION: Could you take us through the whole thing here, from the time the bandits came into the camp. Could you describe that, and how you were taken captive, and kind of run through the, going to their camp and kind of tell us the story at this point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jason.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'd all love to hear the story.
WEBER: Well, We had 141 days of story.
WEBER: You know, it's about October 12th, about 4 o'clock in the morning. Pretty much all of us the same thing happened. You hear a bunch of racket, noise. They came beating on our doors saying they were guerrillas, "Could you please -- Guerrillas, come with us."
They took us out, put us in a truck, drove us down the road to where we had our helicopter stationed. And put us in the helicopter and flew us away. Forty five minutes later we're on the ground and we're walking. Walked for three days, we hit a camp, stayed at a camp, and whenever you say camp it's not, it ain't a shack in the woods, it's, you're strung between a few trees in a hammock.
The first three days, the first three days for us was on the ground. Stayed around 28 days or so, one camp, walked, stayed another 40 or so days at another camp, walked for seven, eight days or so. Moving camp to camp and dodging whoever they considered was bad for us, military, and that's pretty much the gist of it.
We kept on the move as they would feel, we'd stay in a place long enough for them to feel comfortable. Whenever they did not feel comfortable anymore then we packed up and left. And up until the last day, we got up, coming out, we got up in the morning, packed our stuff just like we'd moved every other day, because we didn't, we were really hoping that we'd go home, but you don't know.
At 8:45 in the morning they told us to go, "You go this way down the trail and by noon, hopefully, you'll be in Santa Rosa." They told us the name of the town, and we packed down a trail for about three, three and a half hours and here's where we are.
QUESTION: Were the three of you together throughout the entire ordeal? Did that help you get through it all?
WEBER: All four of us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was actually seven, eight of us all together, until Ron went. And then seven for the remaining time.
QUESTION: And so you were all together, then?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This far apart.
QUESTION: Jason, did they have a list? It's been reported that they had a list of your names on it and they were looking for people by name. Did you...
WEBER: I wouldn't know nothing about that. I don't have no idea.
QUESTION: How did you deal with the language barrier?
(LAUGHTER) QUESTION: Any of you speak Spanish?
WEBER: Do pretty good now.
QUESTION: How long would you guys walk? Would you go nonstop pretty much, or would you walk for a number of hours and have time to rest, or what did you do (UNINTELLIGIBLE) morning treatment as far as did they feed you much or...
WEBER: Food, that all depended on how scared they were. If they thought they were running from the military. Sometimes you'd have, we call it tree bark tea. It's a vine. They'd cut it up and put it in water and you drink it, or some days you'd have rice. The diet consisted of rice and maybe sardines.
It was pretty much the gist of the whole time we was there. The food, and, like I said, walking all depended on you only move as fast as your slowest man.
And whenever you're moving in a group of 30, it is hard to, hard to move fast and slow, or fast and quiet.
QUESTION: It's been reported you had to eat rats. Is that right?
WEBER: It's not a -- it's called a gorita, gora. You'd call it a rat, yes.
QUESTION: Did you ever get news from back home or think you were getting news from back home?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Us? No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
QUESTION: They didn't bring the ransom into camp and let you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
QUESTION: So when they told you you could pack down that trail towards Santa Rosa. I mean, what was your feeling at that point? Did you think this was really it, and you're home free now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it was a relief, but you, know we were still scared. We still had to make it out. Just because we left that group doesn't mean we're not going to get captured by another group of guerrillas, you know. There's a lot of stuff that goes on out there.
QUESTION: What did you do during the day when you weren't, you know, moving around? What were you doing? WEBER: Some hammock time. Sit in a hammock for, I bet we had to have at least a good 20, 22 hours a day. In between that, Arnie's -- Arnie really helped out with -- it's amazing what you can do to, for a gymnasium with a couple of trees and a rope. So, Arnie really helped out with that to pass the time.
NELSON: You're listening to a conference in Medford, Oregon, by the five Americans who were captured in Ecuador and spend 141 days at the hand of guerrillas there after their capture in an oil field.
And they were released this week after a reported ransom was for $13 million paid on their behalf. They have now showed up safe and sound in Medford, Oregon and you've just heard part of their story.
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