AMBUSH SURVIVORS SAY THEY WILL NEVER RETURN TO PAPUA

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By Danny Mortison

TOWNSVILLE, Australia (September 23, 2002 – Kabar-Irian/ Townsvillebulletin.news.com)---The last of the injured survivors of an ambush shooting in the Indonesian province of Papua left Townsville yesterday and have vowed never to return to Papua.

Kenneth Valk, of Oregon, said on Saturday that the eight people rushed to Townsville Hospital three weeks ago after the ambush on their convoy would never fully recover from the ordeal.

An Indonesian and two Americans, identified by police as Bambang Riwanto, Ted Burcon and Ricky Spier, were killed in the August 31 attack.

"None of us want to revisit the tragedy in any shape or form," Mr. Valk said.

Most of the ambush victims were teachers who worked in a school for children of Freeport Gold Mine employees.

Mr. Valk, his partner Saundra Hopkins and their daughter Taia Hopkins, 6, flew out of Townsville to return to the United States yesterday.

They were joined by Lynn Poston, of Washington State.

Ms. Poston and Mr. Valk were the last of the injured ambush survivors to check out of Townsville Hospital.

They then recuperated at a private Kirwan home.

Mr. Valk and his family were full of praise for the Townsville community and hospital staff.

"At this point, we just want to move on and say thank you to Townsville," he said.

"The people here from the moment we arrived have been just great.

"Right from the ambulance staff who picked us up at the airport through to the continuing health staff . . . we just can't say enough to thank you all."

Mr. Valk said counselors had been paramount to the survivors' emotional recovery.

Other than what they had seen on the news, he said he and his colleagues had no idea who was responsible for the shooting attack or what investigations were being made into the incident.

"Terrorism happens in a lot of different places. We just happened to be the victims up there," he said.

Mr. Valk said his colleagues returned to the United States last week.

KABAR-IRIAN ("Irian News") Websites: http://www.irja.org/index2.shtml and http://www.kabar-irian.com 

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