Peoria Adopts Freed Hostage and Prepares Festive Homecoming
PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Peoria residents claimed freed hostage Scott Heimdal as their town’s son Saturday after raising the ransom to free the gold miner kidnapped two months ago in Ecuador.
Heimdal didn’t know it during his captivity, but he was adopted by residents of this blue-collar city of 120,000 who raised the $60,000 in ransom demands made after he was kidnapped on a jungle river along the Ecuador- Colombia border.
Heimdal, 27, was turned over to Ecuadoran authorities Friday in the same area where he was taken April 28, said Luis Felix, Ecuador’s vice minister of the Interior. He was then taken to the capital city of Quito, to meet his parents, Ray and Marge Heimdal, who arrived June 18 to take over negotiations with the kidnappers.
They could be home as early as Tuesday, according to Angie Heimdal, Scott’s 21-year-old sister, who spoke to her brother and mother by phone Friday night.
The family said earlier they hoped Heimdal could be home in time for his 28th birthday Thursday.
″We’ll have a heck of a party,″ said Scott’s other sister, Linda, 27.
Angie said her brother sounded great in their telephone conversation Friday night.
″I said, ‘How are you doing?’ He said ‘I’m fine,’ just like it was no big deal,″ she said Saturday.
″He said ‘I can’t wait to see you. I said ’I can’t wait to kill you,‴ she said, laughing.
Meanwhile, Peoria residents also eagerly awaited his arrival.
″I’m just so swelled with pride that we got him out,″ said Mary Noirot. ″These are very private people and they had to bare their souls to the whole world that they have nothing.″
The family’s life savings were wiped out by medical bills after Marge Heimdal was seriously injured in a 1983 wreck involving an uninsured drunken driver.
″We’ve seen the agony of this family. Now we want to see the ecstacy when he returns,″ Mrs. Noirot said. ″I want to meet Scott. We all want a piece of him. He’s not just their son anymore. He belongs to all of us.″
″I can’t wait to meet Scott,″ said Lynn Van Norman, who stood in hot sun and chilly rain during four days of frantic fund raising and collected nearly $10,000 in ransom.
″I heard the news when Scott was kidnapped and sent a card. But then I thought, cards and crying are not going to do a dog-gone thing.″ She set up a collection spot in the parking lot of a shopping mall after Roy and Marge Heimdal pleaded for help raising the ransom to free their son.
Others held bake sales or opened lemonade stands.
After the money was collected, the kidnappers raised their ransom to $612,000, but eventually settled for the $60,000 in Colombian pesos.
When the kidnappers raised their ranson demand, Roy Heimdal, a 52-year-old cabinet salesman, and Marge, 47, a nursing-home employee, went to Ecuador. Mrs. Heimdal declared they would not return without their son.
″It shows what the determination of a mother will do,″ Mrs. Noirot said. ″She’s the hero in this story.″
Few in Peoria know Scott, who joined the army after high school and never really came back. He left the service after a four-year tour, then worked in Boston as a telephone company technician until he could save enough money to move to Quito to pursue his dreams of fortune-hunting.
″Scott’s one of us. It was like Peoria became one big family when it heard what happened to Scott,″ said Larry Chianakas, who lives next to Heimdal’s parents. ″I’ve never seen a city gather itself in support of one person like this. It’s been unbelievable.″