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Crew's families thrilled with news of release

Barbara DiStefano holds a picture of her brother, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Richter during a Capitol Hill news conference on April 4th  

SATELLITE BEACH, Florida (CNN) -- Sandy Guidry interrupted her celebration to take a phone call from the guest of honor, who unfortunately wasn't present at her Satellite Beach, Florida, home.

But her son, Navy Aviation Electricians Technician 2nd Class Scott Guidry, called to say he was on his way.

Guidry is one of 24 U.S. fliers detained by China after their plane collided with a Chinese jet and made an emergency island in China's Hainan province 11 days ago. On Wednesday morning, U.S. and Chinese officials announced they had secured the crew's release.

"He says 'Mom, I love you and I'm coming home and I'll see you soon. Tell dad,'" a jubilant Sandy Guidry said. "I was so excited. He sounded so serious though."

The crew members were allowed short phone calls home after the announcement of their release, but they'll have to wait a little longer for reunions with their family members.

As Sandy Guidry spoke to reporters, a Continental 737 took off from Guam en route to Hainan, where it was expected to pick up the crew and bring them back to Guam. There, they were to board a military plane for a flight to Hawaii.

And finally, after a debriefing, they would be flown to the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island in Washington -- the plane's home base -- for the anxiously-awaited reunions.

In Greenville, North Carolina, U.S. President George W. Bush announces the return of a U.S. Navy aircrew from detention in China

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Families of crew member show their emotions while talking about the news

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image Images of some of the U.S. detainees in China

"We're all delighted," said Barbara DiStefano, the sister of Navy Cryptologic Technician 2nd Class Kenneth Richter of Staten Island, New York. "As soon as I got off the phone, I ran in and woke my parents up and told them the good news."

Sandy Guidry raised a plastic cup of champagne to her son, his 23 crewmates and U.S. President George W. Bush.

"It was just elation," said Guidry of the moment she heard the news of the pending release. "I was so excited and so happy. I ran out and gave everybody hugs and kisses and I'm very, very pleased."

Another mother, Tilda Young, said she was "overwhelmed" by news that her son, Navy Cryptologic Technician 3rd Class Rodney Young of Katy, Texas, would soon be released.

"We're feeling great, we're feeling wonderful," she said. "This is the news we've been waiting for."

Brig. Gen. Neal Sealock, the U.S. military attache in Hainan province, where the plane landed and the crew was detained, arranged the phone calls home.

Sealock was allowed to meet with the crew five times, and delivered email messages from their families.

The messages were welcome -- but seeing their loved ones face-to-face sounds much better to Ramon Mercado, Sr., father of Navy Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Ramon Mercado, Jr., of Moreno Valley, California.

"There are no words to express my feeling right now," the elder Mercado said. "Just so happy that the crew and my son will be coming home."

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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