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Pirates Capture Vermont Captain

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Capt. Richard Phillips Capt. Richard Phillips
Andrea Phillips Andrea Phillips

Underhill, Vermont - April 8, 2009

A Vermont man is being held hostage by Somali pirates. Underhill resident, Richard Phillips, is the captain of a shipping vessel that was on its way to Africa with food and other aid when the pirates attacked.

Phillips knows the risks of being at sea off the coast of Africa. He has been sailing the waters for more than 20 years and even warned his wife, Andrea, that pirate activity was high this week.

"You always hope never me," she said during an interview at her Underhill home Wednesday afternoon.

Four Somali pirates attacked Phillips's ship, the Maersk Alabama, about 300 miles off the coast of Somali. Crew members regained control of their ship, but the pirates took off with Captain Phillips in the ship's 28' lifeboat.

"At this time we are trying to recover a crew member from the lifeboat," said the ship's Third Mate, Colin Wright, during a phone interview from the ship. "The Somali pirates have one of our crew members on our lifeboat and we are trying to recover that crew member."

Crew members report that Captain Phillips turned himself over to the pirates. His wife spoke with WCAX before she knew he was being held hostage, but was confident in he could handle a dangerous situation.

"I have faith in my husband," she said. I know he'll do well with the crew. He'll do well to keep everybody safe and himself safe. You know he's a smart man and I know he'll be alright."

According to the Pentagon the other crew members have control of their ship and appear to be safe. Captain Shane Murphy, the second in command on the ship, called his wife in Massachusetts, Wednesday morning.

"I asked if he was safe and he said 'almost'," Serena Murphy told reporters.

The U.S. Navy dispatched its war ship the USS Bainbridge to the area and it arrived on scene Wednesday evening. A spokesperson for Maersk says the lifeboat with the pirates and Captain Phillips is floating near the ship and officials are waiting for sun-up before deciding what to do next.

The Alabama was sailing under a U.S. flag when it was attacked. It is the first American ship to be taken hostage by pirates in more than 200 years, but the sixth ship to be taken hostage in the area in the last week. It is believed that 300 people are currently being held hostage by African pirates who demand cash ransoms.

Bianca Slota - WCAX News

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