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Released hostage Robert Croke from Canada sits before a briefing where they he was presented to the media at the Nigerian Air Force base in the oil hub Port Harcourt November 18, 2010, after he was rescued by the Nigerian military Wednesday night. Nigeria's security forces reunited 19 foreign and local hostages with their employers on Thursday after freeing them from militant camps in the creeks of the Niger Delta oil region. (Austin Ekeinde/Austin Ekeinde/Reuters)
Released hostage Robert Croke from Canada sits before a briefing where they he was presented to the media at the Nigerian Air Force base in the oil hub Port Harcourt November 18, 2010, after he was rescued by the Nigerian military Wednesday night. Nigeria's security forces reunited 19 foreign and local hostages with their employers on Thursday after freeing them from militant camps in the creeks of the Niger Delta oil region. (Austin Ekeinde/Austin Ekeinde/Reuters)

Family of freed oil rig worker plan celebration Add to ...

The family of a Newfoundland man who spent 10 days in captivity after being taken hostage on an oil rig off Nigeria is planning a big celebration to welcome the drill worker home.

Judy Hayes, Robert Croke's sister, said Thursday she was thrilled to learn her brother had been released a day earlier in a military operation that freed 19 hostages in the Niger Delta region.

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Ms. Hayes said many of Mr. Croke's family members were gathering in the small community of Torbay, N.L., for his return sometime next week. Mr. Croke was seized during an attack at the Okoro oilfield, 11 kilometres off the coast of Nigeria's Akwa Ibom state.

"Oh, we're going to have a time of it," Ms. Hayes said from her home in Mount Pearl, outside St. John's.

"There's going to be a big celebration when he gets home. One of my brothers said he's going to ground him and he's going to nail him onto Newfoundland - he's not going nowhere."

The jubilation comes after a tense 10-day wait for news of the 51-year-old contractor, who was working on the Transocean rig that was leased to London-based Afren PLC.

Ms. Hayes said her brother, who has three sons, appeared to be in good shape even though he was hit in one foot by a ricocheting bullet fired by the captors when they stormed the rig.

Mr. Croke appeared Thursday at a media briefing in Nigeria's Port Harcourt, looking tired and unshaven and in bare feet, sweatpants and a T-shirt.

"It's a shocking experience and I wouldn't want anybody to ever go through such a thing," Mr. Croke told Agence France-Presse.

Ms. Hayes said Mr. Croke's wife was heading to an undisclosed location, possibly on Friday, to meet her husband and then bring him back to Torbay in the coming days.

Ms. Hayes said her sister-in-law was told there was a security breach on the rig and that two boats used to patrol waters around the rig were not in place at the time of the attack.

A statement from Afren referred to a security breach at the High Island VII jackup rig, but didn't provide details.

"There is an ongoing, thorough investigation into what happened," said Mark Antelme, a spokesman for Afren. "Lessons will be learned and changes will be implemented, of course."

Two Americans, two French nationals and two Indonesians were also freed with Mr. Croke.

Mr. Croke reportedly worked for PPI Technology Services, a Houston-based company that supports oil and gas drilling, production and construction activities.

Company officials did not return calls Thursday.

Ms. Hayes said Mr. Croke had been working in Africa for several years and left for Nigeria in mid-October following the death of his mother.

A Nigerian military spokesman said Wednesday night an operation to attack militant camps was ongoing in the region, but declined to comment further.

Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said a military raid freed workers kidnapped from an Exxon Mobil Corp. platform this week, as well as expatriates seized in the attack on the Afren platform.

Although Mr. Croke's abduction marks the first time a Canadian oil worker has been kidnapped in the restive delta region, other nationals have been targeted in other parts of the country.

The region's main militant group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, has said it would carry out new attacks in the region after claiming responsibility for an Oct. 1 car bombing in the nation's capital Abuja that killed at least 12 and injured dozens more.

Nigerian navy vessels often offer security for offshore rigs, however there were no vessels immediately in the area when the Nov. 8 attack occurred.

 

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