The niece of a woman who was one of the four Americans killed by Somali pirates Tuesday spoke lovingly about her aunt and gave more details about the death of the sailors.
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 Friday several hundred miles south of Oman. The pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. warship following the hijacked vessel Tuesday, then gunfire erupted and the Americans were fatally wounded.
Nina Crossland, a South San Francisco woman who was the niece of Phyllis Macay, on Tuesday recalled the type of person her aunt was.
“My aunt was a very smart and avid sailor,” said Nina Crossland, from the family’s South San Francisco residence. Crossland is the family’s spokesperson and Macay’s niece. “She was living her dream sailing around the world. We want the media to know that she was vivacious … and she lit up the room when she walked in.”
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 58-foot 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, Crossland, told reporters Tuesday.
Contrary to various initial media reports, Crossland said that when the first Navy SEAL boarded the boat after hearing gunshots, her aunt was still alive and not dead as previously reported.
“She was alive,” Crossland said, “and they tried to revive her through surgery.”
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.
Joe Grande, of the yacht club, said the deaths were like losing a member of the family to those who knew the pair.
"Great sailors, good people. They were doing what they wanted to do, but that's small comfort in the face of this," Grande said.
Macay’s mother, Patricia Drinkwater, was unavailable for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.