A petroleum engineer who felt safe working at the remote outpost in the Sahara, Gordon Lee Rowan, 58, had spent Christmas in California with one of his two sons, and then drove from Sumpter the first week in January to fly out of Boise, Idaho, for another monthlong shift at the gas field, said friends Toni Thompson and Myron Woodley.
"The biggest thing is just the senselessness of it, and the fact he was so close to being able to retire and kind of start his life again," after the death of his wife 3 1/2 years ago, said Thompson, the retired city recorder of Sumpter and a longtime friend of the Rowan family.
"He'd got a new ATV and a snowmobile. He was looking forward to being able to use those in the appropriate seasons. He was getting started again to fish and hunt with his brother (Jerry Rowan of Sumpter). Just looking forward to a lot of things."
The State Department said Rowan was one of three Americans killed in the hostage standoff last week at the Ain Amenas field in the Sahara. An official said Rowan was one of two hostages that militants wanted to exchange for prominent terror suspects jailed in the United States.
Rowan graduated from high school in Ontario, Ore., in 1973, and served in the Army, Thompson said.
He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1985 with a bachelor of science in petroleum engineering, said spokeswoman Catherine F. Bishop.
He worked on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and the South China Sea as well as Algeria, Thompson and Woodley said.
Woodley said Rowan was involved in fracking old wells at the Sahara site to get more oil and gas out of them.