News

Governor Locke visit's crewmembers' families

"Washington Gov. Gary Locke talked Friday with families of the U.S. Navy EP-3E crewmembers being detained on the Hainan Island in the People's Republic of China, telling them we care about them.The mid-afternoon meeting at an undisclosed Whidbey Island Naval Air Station location was followed by a news conference at the media command center set up at the American Red Cross building near the base's main entrance.The families looked tired and stressed, but they also said they were receiving incredible support from the Naval Air Station community, said Locke. There were six spouses and the parents of three or four other crewmembers present at the meeting with Locke, he said. They are encouraged by the relaxation of tensions between the U.S. and China over the incident and the news that more visits between the crewmembers and U.S. diplomats are planned. The crew also received the 'care packages' from the U.S. diplomats, providing them with some basic essentials.The crew is being treated well, is in good health and is eating catered meals, said Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a media briefing aired on CNN Friday morning. Family members' messages are being conveyed to the crew, Locke said. Arrangements for the crew to get messages to their families and the possibility of photos and phone calls coming through from the crew are being handled by the State Department, the Pentagon and U.S. government officials, Locke said. The governor did not say this would definitely occur.The families expressed their condolences to the family of the Chinese pilot, whose F8 jet crashed into the ocean after the collision with the EP-3E. His body has not been recovered. Locke could not say if that message of sympathy would, in fact, be delivered to the Chinese people or the Chinese pilot's family.When asked if the current situation would affect trade between the Washington state and China, Locke said, Let's really focus right now on bringing back those America crewmembers. The governor said it was better to not try to influence the issue, but rather to allow the U.S. diplomatic personnel to do their thing.You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611 "

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