Wife of slain Helmerich & Payne employee urges company to pay ransoms

Monday, February 5th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. (AP) -- The widow of a man slain by kidnappers in Ecuador says the oil companies whose workers are being held hostage must pay the ransom before someone else dies.

Ronald Sander, 54, an oilfield worker from Sunrise Beach, was one of 10 people, five of them Americans, who were seized in October in the petroleum-rich jungles of northeast Ecuador.

"People need to know that these are just working-class people being held captive," Sheila Sander told The Kansas City Star for Sunday's editions. "The oil companies should pay the money. Please don't let another family go through this.

"It's too late for Ron, but it's not too late for those other men. We've got to get those guys out of there."

For four months, Sheila Sander kept the secret that her husband had been kidnapped. Helmerich & Payne Inc., based in Tulsa, Okla., had told family members not to talk with the media, saying it would compromise negotiations.

Ronald Sander's body was found Wednesday, shot five times in the back and covered with a sheet that said he had been killed because the company he worked for refused to pay ransom.

Sander was a toolpusher, supervising other employees on an oil-drilling rig. He had been with the company more than 20 years.

Sheila Sander said she decided to talk to the media because she believes the time has come for the oil companies to pay the ransom before more hostages are murdered.

"If Ron were here and his friends were being held, that's what he would do," Sheila Sander said. "He'd step in and say something to them. I'm doing what I know he wants me to do now."

Helmerich & Payne officials have said they were shocked by Sander's death because negotiations with the kidnappers had been progressing well.