In a remarkable display of employer responsibility, a Canadian mine-drilling executive has willingly become a guerrilla hostage in Colombia after trading places with an employee he had never met.
The swap took place at a remote mountain pass in Colombia on Oct. 6, but Canadian authorities did not release details until reports appeared in several Canadian newspapers Friday.
The executive, Norbert Reinhart, 49, exchanged himself for drill foreman Ed Leonard, who was captured June 24 by ransom-seeking leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Reinhart's wife, Casey, said the two Canadians met for the first time during the trade.
Reinhart "said to him, 'Your shift is done, you can go home,' " she told reporters.
Leonard is now back home in British Columbia, while Casey Reinhart is trying to explain her husband's absence to their daughters, Robin and Molly.
"My first reaction was, 'Don't do it,' " she said. "But you can't help but admire his nobility in doing it."
Canadian authorities aren't quite so admiring.
Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy said Friday that he had advised Reinhart against making the swap.
"We had met very actively with the family. We had frankly recommended that that particular deal not be done," Axworthy said. "These kind of private deals should not be struck and really should have been done through the Colombian government."
Negotiations are now in the hands of Colombian authorities, Axworthy said.
"The new Colombian government wants to actively pursue this question," Axworthy said. "We gave our advice, that's all we can do. We'll continue to work with the family and work with the Colombian government to seek his release."
Reinhart, who lives in the province of Alberta, is owner of Terramundo Drilling Inc., which had been hired by a Vancouver-based exploration firm to conduct drilling in a part of Colombia where rebels are active.
Leonard was abducted at the site just a week after reporting for work there. The rebels reportedly sought a ransom of up to $2 million from the Vancouver company, Grey Star Resources.
Casey Reinhart said her husband had been trying to secure Leonard's freedom for more than three months.
"He decided he would make one final try to get him out. And he said if it didn't go well, he would trade himself."
Leonard, 60, said he was not mistreated during his 106-day ordeal, but was nonetheless pleased when Reinhart showed up to make the exchange.
"I am very grateful that he traded places with me on the mountain," Leonard said. "I wanted to be out but I didn't want anyone to take my place. It's quite a thing."