Ramos rescued, returning home

Ramos rescued, returning home
November 12, 2011, 2:56 am
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Updated at 11:42 p.m.
Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos was rescued by Venezuelan police this evening in a mountainous area west of his hometown and is returning to his house where elated family members and friends await his arrival.

The 24-year-old was found "safe and sound," according to Venezuelan justice minister Tareck El Aissami, roughly 51 hours after he was abducted by four armed men outside his home near Valencia.

Family members spoke on the phone with Ramos, who told them he was "healthy and well," according to close family friend Marfa Mata.

"The news from Venezuela tonight is reassuring," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement released by the club. "Though details are limited and we have not yet talked directly with Wilson, we are thrilled with reports that he has been rescued and is being safely returned to his family. We greatly appreciate all the prayers and thoughts of all who have joined us in wishing for this conclusion to what has been a nightmarish 48 hours. We are eager to see Wilson and let him know just how many all over the world have been waiting for this news."

It's not yet known how authorities located Ramos or how the rescue operation was performed, but the Venezuelan government reported three men in custody, including one who is a Colombian citizen linked to paramilitary groups.

There had also been indications earlier in the day that the police was making progress in the search for the missing ballplayer.

Venezuelan authorities had discovered a second vehicle, a 2002 Toyota Terios SUV, in a remote area of Bejuma, the same village where yesterday another SUV believed to have been used in Ramos' kidnapping was found. The newspaper Ultimas Noticias also reported this afternoon about 300 members of various Venezuelan brigades had been commissioned to comb the mountainous area of Carabobo, the state in which Ramos lives and where he ultimately was rescued.

Friday morning, authorities said the investigation into Ramos' kidnapping had been advancing and that he was confident the matter will be resolved soon. There were also reports of aerial operations underway in the country, as police apparently took its investigation to another level.

Word of Ramos' safe rescue spread quickly throughout Venezuela. An announcement was made during the Aragua Tigres home game, leading to a roar from the crowd, according to a club spokeswoman. Ramos was slated to begin playing winter ball for Aragua this week.

Back in Washington, a group of fans held a candlelight vigil for Ramos earlier in the evening at Nationals Park.