Wells was a fearless journo

Laura Wides-Munoz

Laura Wides-Munoz

Veteran Associated Press newsman Tom Wells, who as bureau chief covered drug wars and political upheaval in Bogota, Colombia, has died. He was 67.

Wells battled lung cancer for years with the same energy and determination he harnessed for news coverage across the Americas, but he lost the fight after the cancer spread to his brain. He died on Monday morning in a Miami hospice.

Wells was known for his fearlessness throughout his 37-year career with the AP.

"It was almost scary. He wanted to get the story done, and it didn't make much difference where you had to go to get it," said former AP Miami photo editor Phil Sandlin, who worked closely with Wells during the 1980s.

"But he was also very humane. It would really affect him emotionally to see people suffer," said Carlos Gonzalez, AP's night editor in Bogota during that time.

Wells' last job was as broadcast editor in Miami, where he worked since 1994. He joined the AP in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1970, eventually moving to Mexico City in 1974 and taking the Bogota post a few years later. Wells was born in 1940 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and grew up in Carthage, Missouri, where he got his first job at the local paper. He served in the Marines before attending college and returning to journalism.

In Colombia, Wells covered Pablo Escobar's rise and fall and the terror war he unleashed as he fought extradition. In one week in November 1985, Wells covered two colossal stories. First, the army stormed the Palace of Justice after it was seized by leftist rebels of the M-19 movement who wanted to put then-president Belisario Betancur on trial. More than 100 people were killed. Then a volcanic eruption sent a wall of mud roaring down a valley, killing about 22000 people in Armero. Wells is survived by his third wife Imelda and four children - Kandra, Tom, David and Kelly. - Sapa-AP