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Three Yachtsmen Killed by Somali Pirates were Hams

02/22/2011

Four Americans -- including three Amateur Radio operators -- who were being held hostage on their yacht by pirates off the coast of Oman have been killed. Scott Adam, K9ESO, and his wife Jean, KF6RVB, along with Bob Riggle, KE7IIV, and Phylis Macay were on board the S/V Quest when pirates boarded their vessel on Friday, February 18. The Adams were based in the Los Angeles area; Riggle and Macay were from Seattle.

According to the US Central Command, the boat was in the Indian Ocean, headed toward the Somali coast when on Friday, the 58 foot yacht sent a distress signal. The boat was being trailed by US Navy forces; it was about a two day sail from the Somali coast. They had begun tracking the yacht after being alerted that a Danish naval helicopter had seen the Quest off Oman under the pirates’ control. The Central Command oversees US anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean.

Officials were in the process of negotiating for the Americans’ release when gunfire was heard around 1 AM (EST) on Tuesday, February 22. “As (US forces) responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” a statement from US Central Command said. “Despite immediate steps to provide life-saving care, all four hostages ultimately died of their wounds.”

There were signs of divisions among the 19 pirates during the hostage standoff, Central Command said. On Monday, two of them came aboard one of the Navy vessels, the USS Sterret, for face-to-face negotiations and did not return to the yacht. The incident turned fatal on Tuesday morning when the pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the Sterret, which missed, and US naval personnel heard gunshots coming from the yacht. At that point, a team of 15 special-operations forces boarded the yacht. On Saturday, President Barack Obama authorized the military to use force in case of an imminent threat to the hostages, said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

After the grenade was fired at the Sterret, several pirates came on deck with their hands raised, as if trying to surrender, said Admiral Mark Fox. The gunfire erupted on board almost immediately. But US officers said it was not known whether the hostages had made an escape attempt or whether disagreements among the pirates prompted the shots. Fox -- the Commander of US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea and the coast off East Africa as far south as Kenya -- said that the incident was the deadliest one he could recall involving US citizens held by pirates. It is believed 19 pirates were involved in the hijacking.

The Navy had been closely monitoring the S/V Quest for about three days, once it became known to be pirated. Four US Navy warships comprised the response force dedicated to recovering the Quest: the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf and the guided-missile destroyers USS Sterret and USS Bulkeley. The bodies of the four Americans are now on board the Enterprise.

The Adams planned to travel across the Indian Ocean from their temporary dock in Phuket, Thailand, and then head up the Red Sea and through the Mediterranean to the Greek islands. They had considered shipping the boat to avoid the dangers of the trip, but decided instead to join a rally of yachts heading to the same location. For reasons unknown, the foursome apparently decided to break off from the Blue Water Rally, which organized and supported the group of boats headed toward the Mediterranean. Blue Water Rally organizers released a statement on their website, saying that said the Adams chose to take an independent route from Mumbai to Salalah, Oman, and left the rally on February 15. In a statement on February 22 after hearing of the deaths from “the pirate menace which is plaguing the Indian Ocean,” Blue Water Rally called the Adams, Riggle and Macay “brave adventurers.”

A former TV unit production manager, Scott Adam, 70, was an experienced sailor who had owned a boat most of his life. And although 66 year old Jean Adam, a retired dentist, became seasick easily, she took medication for it because she loved being on the water. According to their website, the Adams -- who each have children from previous marriages -- planned to hand out Bibles during their trip.  -- Thanks to The Associated Press and US Central Command for some information



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