SEARCH 2000 Games

Tuesday, September 19, 2000
Escaped convicts seize Olympic courtesy vehicle

 SYDNEY (AP) -- The driver of a van leased to the South Korean Olympic committee was just waiting for a red light to change when the vehicle was hijacked by two escaped convicts.

 The driver, identified only as Kwang-Ko, was one of four occupants, including a South Korean Olympic official, who were in the van Tuesday when the prisoners jumped in near the main site of the Sydney Games.

 "I stopped at the traffic lights and suddenly someone opened the front door and got in," the volunteer driver told the Seven television network. "I tried to control the wheel of the car, but they forced me to move out of the driver's seat. They eventually took control of the car."

 All four occupants were freed unharmed a short time later, and the escaped convicts abandoned the car and fled on foot.

 The car was seized at Silverwater, a Sydney suburb adjacent to Olympic Park and the site of the large minimum-security Silverwater prison, according to police.

 None of the occupants was taken hostage in the escape, Sydney Olympics organizing committee spokesman Milton Cockburn said.

 One of the occupants was Yoon Jong-koo, an official of the South Korean Olympic committee, and the other three were South Korean volunteers from Australia, said Choi Eun-gi, a spokesman for the delegation.

 Two of the volunteers were a married couple, Peter and Terry Lee. Mrs. Lee, who is six months' pregnant, was taken to a specialist maternity hospital for observation.

 A spokesman for the New South Wales corrective services department, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said one of the prisoners was 26-year-old Chad Richards, who had been on weekend detention. He had breached his weekend conditions and was in prison full-time for stealing a car.

 The spokesman the other man was Alan Stebens, 35, who was serving 10 years for armed robbery and culpable driving causing death. Stebens was due for release in April 2002.

 IOC director general Francois Carrard said Wednesday (Tuesday night EDT) that the incident did not take place in an Olympic venue and did not compromise Olympic security.

 "It's unfortunate. But these are hazards of life anywhere in the world. It does not by any means diminish the quality of security at the Olympic Village or for the athletes," he said.

 Carrard said he had total confidence in the Sydney organizing committee's security arrangements.

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