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Friends: Slain American sailors knew the dangers

The American sailors killed by pirates Tuesday off the coast of Somalia relished meeting new people in their world travels and were well aware of the dangers of the high seas, friends said Wednesday.

Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, along with Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle, were shot to death early Tuesday on the SV Quest, after pirates took them hostage on Friday several hundred miles south of Oman.

"They loved meeting people. Jean was just a lover of people. And everywhere they went, they sent us e-mails, talking about the people they met. And the beautiful creation that they saw," Catherine Barsotti, a friend of the Adams told CBS' "The Early Show."

PICTURES: 4 Americans on hijacked yacht dead off Somalia

The four adventurers loved the sea and wanted to see the world. Friends said they were meticulous and planned for any dangers, but even that couldn't prepare them for the Somali pirates who stormed their yacht and took their lives.

The Adams had recently sent an e-mail to Barsotti and her husband Robert K. Johsnton asking for their prayers.

"They were experienced sailors and they were well aware of the dangers," Johnston, Scott Adam's former seminary teacher and longtime friend, told "The Early Show." "They had joined a flotilla coming from Bangkok to Sri Lanka. They took precautions, even though they were adventurers. So we prayed for them, because we knew this was the key piece of territory where they were moving from Mumbai through the Red Sea. ... But there was no reason to think this was a particularly crucial moment when they wrote that e-mail."

Macay's niece, Nina Crossland, told reporters Tuesday that her aunt was "a very smart and avid sailor."

"I think she was smart enough and planned ahead and prepared to not be in this type of situation," she said, visibly shaken and holding back tears.

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.

Mariners were warned about traveling around the Horn of Africa because of the risk of pirate attacks. The four sailors traveled with a large flotilla to stay safe earlier in the trip, but left the group at the time of the attack, said Crossland.

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.

On Monday, two pirates had peacefully come aboard the USS Sterett to negotiate with naval forces for the release of the hostages, and remained aboard overnight.

But at 8 a.m. East Africa time Tuesday, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired from the Quest at the USS Sterett, a guided-missile destroyer 600 yards away. The RPG missed and almost immediately afterward small arms fire was heard coming from the yacht, said Vice Adm. Mark Fox, commander of the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain.

U.S. forces converged on the Quest in small boats and some pirates moved to bow and put up their hands in surrender.

A member of a U.S. special operations force killed one of the pirates with a knife, Fox said. A second pirate was also killed, and the bodies of two other pirates were discovered on board, bringing to 19 the total number of pirates involved. The U.S. military didn't say how those two died and it was not known if the pirates had fought among themselves.

But the pirates had begun arguing among themselves over what concessions to make in the negotiations and one of them apparently decided to settle the argument by killing their hostages, CBS News correspondent David Martin reports.

Macay, 59, was wounded but alive when Navy SEALs boarded the Quest after the shooting, but she died later, her niece said.

Macay and Riggle had left Seattle on Riggle's sailboat for a world voyage in September 2007, but in recent years had been crewing on separate boats, said Macay's friend Cynthia Kirkham, of Seattle.

Joe Grande, a fellow member of the Seattle Singles Yacht Club, 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 Southern California 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. "We hope their deaths will bring about the world's focus to eliminate this violence."

DeDe Allen, the club's secretary 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 became spiritual and enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena a decade ago, said Johnston, a professor at the seminary.

His wife had been a dentist, Torgerson said.

Johnston and Adam worked together to start a film and theology institute. Adam also taught a class on church and media at the school.

"He came with 30 years of background in film, and was just passionate about film. He came because he was also passionate about his faith, and so he wanted to integrate those two things together," Johnston told "the Early Show." He was curious, loved to ask questions, loved to state his opinion.

Since 2004, the Adams lived on their yacht in Marina Del Rey for about half the year and the rest of the year they sailed around the world, often distributing Bibles in remote parts of the Fiji Islands, Alaska, New Zealand, Central America and French Polynesia, Johnston said.

Scott and Jane Adam documented their maritime missionary work on their website, S/V Quest Adventure Log.

At St. Monica's Catholic Church in Santa Monica, where the Adams were 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."

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. She and Riggle were romantically involved when they first met, but later were friends who sailed together, Kirkham said.

Profitability Consulting CEO 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."