Daughter of sailor killed by pirates thanks Navy

Crime, Law and JusticeCrimeUnrest, Conflicts and WarArmed ForcesDefensePiracyFBI

ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- The daughter of one of the four Americans killed Tuesday by Somali pirates thanked the Navy sailors who tried to save their lives and asked  to be allowed to grieve in private.

Jean and Scott Adams of Marina Del Rey, Calif., were killed by their captors aboard their 58-foot sailboat Quest. Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, who were sailing with them when they were hijacked in open waters off Oman on Friday, were also killed.

Their daughter, Emily Elizabeth Sem, who lives in Escondido, issued a statement through the FBI Tuesday night.

"Our loved ones were tragically taken from us and our hearts are broken,'' she said. "While we wish to grieve in private, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to the brave men and women of the Navy and other military branches who risked their lives trying to save them.

"We would also like to thank the FBI and State Department for their swift and kind treatment of this matter. Our hearts also go out to the families of Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay. We cannot thank you all enough.''

The San Diego-based destroyer USS Sterett had been shadowing the Quest since it had been taken by the pirates.  According to Navy Vice Adm. Mark Fox, Navy SEALs boarded the vessel after pirates fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the destroyer. When they arrived, the four American's had already been shot to death, Fox said.

Negotiations with the pirates were under way at the time, and one even reportedly spent the previous night aboard the 509-foot Arleigh-Burke class destroyer, named for a naval officer known for his service against Barbary pirates in the first years of the U.S. Navy.

In response to attack, two pirates were killed and 15 were captured, naval officials said.

For years, the Gulf of Aden has grown increasingly dangerous. Somalia has been in anarchy for years, with pirates taking dozens of ships -- even oil tankers and container ships -- and hundreds of hostages.

The killings, however, are unusual for the pirates, who are apparently more interested in money than anything else.

 In November, a British yachting couple reportedly paid Somali pirates $1 million in ransom to be freed.

Sterett and its crew of about 300 left San Diego in October on its first active-duty deployment.

The Adams, who had been cruising for more than six years, had been sailing in an organized flotilla of yachters headed for the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal, but they broke off from the group, with plans to reprovision in Dijbouti.

The couple, devout Catholics, had been distributing Bibles in far-flung around the world.

The U.S. Navy has taken on the pirates directly before. When the Maersk Alabama was taken on April 8, 2009, SEAL sharpshooters responded by taking out three pirate holding Capt. Richard Phillips with spectacular shots from the fantail of a warship. A fourth pirate was captured and, on Feb. 16, sentenced to more than 33 years in prison by a U.S. judge in New York.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times