March 01, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

Paul Derry of La Grande said today he had not yet talked to his brother, Steve, one of the kidnapped men released by Ecuadorean gangsters Thursday.

"Thats good news. Thats real good news," Paul Derry said of the release of the seven hostages after they had been held for 139 days in the jungle near the Colombian border.

Im overjoyed that they are safe. Its been a long time, Paul Derry said.

Steve Derry, 41, a helicopter mechanic for Erickson Air-Crane of Central Point, was seized Oct. 12 from an oil camp in Lago Agrio, near the Columbian border.

Itll probably be a couple of days before they get home, and I have every intention of being in Gold Hill when they get home, Paul Derry, 37, said from his La Grande home.

You think about (the kidnappers) going back on their word. Theyve got their money, you know. They could just do away with them. Thats been a pretty heavy worry.

Paul Derry, one of seven brothers, set up a fund in La Grande to try to raise money for the ransom, but said the fund only had $8 in contributions. He said he didnt know how much money was raised in Medford by another brother, Mike, who had set up a similar fund.

The kidnappers at first had demanded $80 million, but it was reported later that they had agreed to accept $13 million.

Marylou Crowell, a member of a group called the Friends of Freedom that was formed to push for the mens release, said she had talked to Mike Derry.

You could just hear the smile on his face, she said.

A friend in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, who had been following the case called in midmorning Thursday with word of the release, Crowell said.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, whose district includes Gold Hill, said it was not known when the Oregon men would return home. The men would be debriefed by Ecuadorean and American officials and get a thorough examination by the U.S. Embassy doctor in Quito before leaving the country, he said.