JOLIET, Ill. (CBS) — A former Joliet resident who was held for nearly two months in a prison in Honduras has been freed and is on his way out of the country, after the government dropped weapons charges against him and other crew members of a salvage ship.
Steve Matanich was part of the crew on a Florida-based salvage ship, when he and the other crew were arrested on weapons smuggling charges on May 5, after arriving in a port in Honduras.
The weapons, according to the salvage company, Aqua Quest, were for protection from pirates, and were not immediately declared because the port office was closed when they arrived, and authorities raided the ship in the night.
Matanich’s sister, Valerie Smith, said her brother called a family member at 10 a.m. Friday, saying the crew was back on the ship and heading away from Honduras.
Smith said she felt an overwhelming sense of relief knowing her brother is coming home, after an “excruciating” wait to find out what would happen to him.
“I just broke down crying,” she said. “I couldn’t control myself.”
Smith said she’ll be more relieved when the ship gets back to Florida. She said her brother has lost a lot of weight after living on rice and beans for nearly two months.
“My brother’s lost 28 pounds, but they all have lost a significant amount of weight,” she said.
Matanich’s family will be travelling from Joliet to Florida to celebrate over the July 4th holiday weekend.