Vt. community awaits return of rescued sea captain

By John Curran

Associated Press

BURLINGTON, Vt. — After agonizing days spent waiting for the release of her husband, the wife of rescued sea captain Richard Phillips is now anticipating his return.

The captain’s release was cause for celebration in his hometown of Underhill, Vt. His return to the tiny community will likely set off another celebration — Vermont style.

Don’t look for a grand party, locals say. Things are done on a much smaller scale in the part bedroom community and part farming area that’s home to 3,100 residents.


The Rev. Charles Danielson, pastor of St. Thomas Church where the Phillips family attends services, shrugged off the idea of a big-city party.

"A ticker-tape parade? I don’t know about that," Danielson said. "This being Vermont ... there’s a real desire to let people be and to respect people’s privacy."

Another local suggested a more modest party idea.

"Maybe, being Underhill, we could have a barbecue or a pig roast — when it warms up a little bit," said 53-year-old Wells Corner Market owner Cedric Wells.

It’s still not known when or how Phillips will return home.

On Monday, Andrea Phillips, along with her two children and mother-in-law, made her first public appearance since her husband’s dramatic rescue at sea. Hoarse from laryngitis, a tearful Phillips thanked the military, supporters and President Barack Obama, who approved the sniper operation that a day earlier killed three pirates.

She also said her husband considers the U.S. military the "real heroes" of his ordeal.

"You have no idea, but with Richard saved, you all just gave me the best Easter ever," the 51-year-old Phillips said in a statement read by the family’s spokeswoman.


"We’re all looking forward to Richard’s return, when the family will get a chance to tell their story together," the statement said.

Mrs. Phillips was flanked by her 19-year-old daughter, Mariah; 20-year-old son, Daniel; and the captain’s mother, Ginny Phillips.

With Andrea Phillips’ voice cracking, Alison McColl, a representative of the captain’s employer, read the statement as Phillips held hands with her daughter.

McColl said Phillips had spoken to her husband earlier Monday.

She quoted him as saying: "I am just a small part of this. The real heroes of the story are the U.S. military. They are the most dedicated, professional and capable group around. We should all reach out and thank them."

Phillips said the "constant outpouring of support, prayers and yellow ribbons" gave the family strength.

"These past five days were extremely difficult," she said. "We did not know what Richard was enduring while being held hostage on the lifeboat, and that was really the hardest part — the wondering. My family and closest friends held onto our faith knowing that Richard would come home.

"At times, we smiled when we thought of Richard would tell the story, with his trademark sense of humor," she said.


The family and McColl took no questions and rushed from the hotel ballroom where they appeared for the media.

Brian Searles, director of aviation at Burlington International Airport in Vermont, said Monday he knew of no plans to fly Phillips into the airport.

Richard Phillips was rescued Sunday when U.S. Navy snipers shot and killed the three Somali pirates who were holding him at gunpoint. He escaped unharmed. A fourth pirate surrendered earlier Sunday and could face life in a U.S. prison.

In Kenya, where Phillips’ ship was docked, the 19 crew members on the Alabama celebrated their skipper’s freedom with beer and an evening barbecue in an area cordoned off from journalists, said crewman Ken Quinn, who ventured out holding a Tusker beer.

On Tuesday morning, the crew left the cargo ship and checked into a hotel in the Kenyan resort city of Mombasa. It was not immediately clear how long the crew was planning to stay. Some crew have said they would return home soon, probably by air.

What To Read Next
Get Local