ST. MONICA — Four American yachters killed by Somali pirates early Tuesday were longtime sailors whose passion for the high seas outweighed any fear of the risks, friends said.
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 shot to death after pirates boarded their yacht Friday and took them hostage several hundred miles south of Oman.
The pirates shot the four after firing a rocket-propelled grenade at a U.S. warship, one of several vessels tracking the hijacked boat over the weekend. Fifteen men were captured.
Friends, family and fellow sailors remembered the four as adventurous, with a zest for life, but also as meticulous planners who were well aware of the dangers of the open seas.
The Adams had been sailing full-time on their 58-foot yacht, the Quest, since December 2004 after retiring. They often travelled with friends, and on this trip were joined by Riggle and Macay, who left Seattle nine or 10 months ago.
At St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Santa Monica, where the Adams were longtime parishioners and Jean Adam sang in the choir, Monsignor Lloyd Torgerson described the killings as heartbreaking during morning Mass.
The Adams took Bibles with them to distribute to far-flung corners of the world, he said.
“They were an extraordinary couple,” Torgerson said. “They were joyful people.”
Mariners were warned about traveling around the Horn of Africa because of the risk of pirate attacks. The four sailors had traveled with a large flotilla to stay safe from pirates earlier in the trip, but left the group when the attack occurred, Macay’s niece, Nina Crossland, told reporters in South San Francisco.
“My aunt is a very smart and avid sailor,” said Crossland, visibly shaken and holding back tears as she spoke to reporters Tuesday morning. “I think she was smart enough and planned ahead and prepared to not be in this type of situation.”
Macay, 59, was wounded but alive when Navy Seals boarded the Quest after the shooting, but she died later, her niece said.
Riggle “would never do anything to jeopardize Phyllis,” Hank Curci, a friend and fellow member of the Seattle Singles Yacht Club.
Joe Grande, another member, said the deaths were like losing 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.
The U.S. flag flew at half-staff Tuesday at the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, a small boat harbor on the Los Angeles County coast where the Adams made their base.
Gary Deitsch, commodore of the club, said members were devastated by the killings. The couple had belonged to the club since 2001.
“We are deeply saddened,” he said at a press conference. “We hope their deaths will bring about the world’s focus to eliminate this violence.”
Club Secretary DeDe Allen, who was a friend of couple and had sailed with them, said they were last in Marina del Rey in December.
“They were just wonderful people to be with,” Allen said. “Their personal mission was enjoying life.”
Scott Adam, who was 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.
His wife had been a dentist, Torgerson said.
Riggle was a relief veterinarian for the Seattle Animal Shelter for the past eight years or so, spaying and neutering adopted animals, 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.
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.
Macay was vice president for training and development for Profitability Consulting Group, an adviser to retail furniture stores based in Hillsborough, N.C.
Macay, who never married, took a sabbatical about three years ago. She and Riggle were romantically involved when they first met, but in recent years were friends who sailed together, said Macay friend Cynthia Kirkham in Seattle.
Chief Executive John Eggers said Macay was regarded in the industry as one of the top educators and presenters on design and sales.
“She was such a free spirit,” Eggers said. “She was just a real professional and just loved life.”