4 Americans killed by Somali pirates

SANTA MONICA, CALIF.—An adventurous quartet of retired yacht enthusiasts from California and Washington state were living their dreams, friends say, sailing around the world until they were shot and killed by Somali pirates on Tuesday.

The yacht’s owners, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey near Los Angeles, along with Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle were taken hostage on Friday several hundred kilometres south of Oman. U.S. naval forces trailing the captured yacht with four warships quickly boarded the vessel after hearing the gunfire Tuesday, but the Americans died of their wounds. Two pirates were killed and 13 captured.

Some of the victims were still alive when they were found by the U.S. team and were given first aid, but all four died, said Vice-Adm. Mark Fox, the commander of U.S. naval forces in the region.

A flotilla of U.S. naval vessels had been shadowing the yacht, known as the Quest, for three days and conducted negotiations over the weekend in an effort to free the two couples as the yacht made its way south toward Somalia, said Lt.-Col. Mike Lawhorn, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

There were signs of divisions among the 19 pirates during the hostage standoff, U.S. officers said. On Monday, two of them came aboard one of the navy vessels, the USS Sterett, for face-to-face negotiations and did not return to the yacht.

The incident turned fatal Tuesday morning when the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Sterett, which missed, and U.S. naval personnel heard gunshots coming from the yacht. At that point, a team of 15 special-operations forces boarded the yacht.

“As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” according to a U.S. military account of the incident.

After the grenade was fired at the Sterett, several pirates came on deck with their hands raised, as if trying to surrender, Fox said. The gunfire erupted on board almost immediately. But U.S. officers said it was not known whether the hostages had made an escape attempt or whether disagreements among the pirates prompted the shots.

As the U.S. Special Forces team cleared the vessel, it discovered two pirates who already were dead. Another two were killed by U.S. personnel, one by gunfire and one by a knife, Fox said.

In all, 15 pirates are in U.S. custody and will be held for possible prosecution, Fox said.

Friends, family and fellow sailors said that despite an adventurous spirit, the four were meticulous planners who knew the dangers they faced. The Adams had been sailing around the world since December 2004 with a yacht full of Bibles to distribute to remote regions, and were joined by Riggle and Macay, who left Seattle nine or 10 months ago.

The four had travelled with a large flotilla to stay safe from pirates earlier in the trip, but had left the group when the attack occurred, McCay’s niece, Nina Crossland, told reporters in San Francisco.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply