SANTA MONICA, California — An adventurous quartet of yacht enthusiasts from California and Washington state were living their dreams, friends say, retiring and 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 miles (kilometers) 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.
"We are heartbroken. They were an extraordinary couple," Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson said of the Adams during morning Mass at St. Monica Catholic Church in Santa Monica.
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 traveled 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.
Visibly shaken and holding back tears, Crossland said her 59-year-old aunt was shot but alive when Navy Seals boarded the Quest. She died later.
"My aunt is a very smart and avid sailor," Crossland told reporters in South San Francisco on Tuesday morning. "I think she was smart enough and planned ahead and prepared to not be in this type of situation."
Mariners were warned about traveling through the area because of the dangers of pirate attacks, but friends and fellow sailors said danger is part of the reality of sailing.
Riggle "would never do anything to jeopardize Phyllis," Hank Curci, a friend and fellow member of the Seattle Singles Yacht Club .
Riggle had worked as a relief veterinarian for the Seattle Animal Shelter for the past seven to eight years, providing spay and neutering services for adopted animals and through a city program, said director Don Jordan.
"He wasn't a man of many words but he was a kind-hearted individual with a great passion for animals and animal welfare," Jordan said. "He treated our staff with dignity and respect."1 comment on this story
Jordan recalled that Riggle once took a colleague's family sailing when their daughter was diagnosed with cancer to get their mind off their troubles. "That was just a small indicator about how he treated people," he said.
Scott Adam, who is in his mid-60s, had been an associate producer in Hollywood when he turned in a spiritual direction and enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena a decade ago, said Robert K. Johnston, a professor at the seminary.
"They were just passing out Bibles, trying to do a good thing," said Barbara Herred, who attended the Mass in Santa Monica. "It's just so sad."
AP reporter Phuong Le in Seattle and Jason Dearen in San Francisco contributed to this report.