Page last updated at 19:07 GMT, Sunday, 12 April 2009 20:07 UK

Profile: Captain Richard Phillips

The family of US Captain Richard Phillips, freed after Somali pirates took him hostage in the Indian Ocean, have described him as a man devoted to his family and to the sea.

Capt Richard Phillips
Capt Phillips's relatives describe him as fun at home and serious at work

His wife, Andrea Phillips, had spoken hopefully of a "happy ending" while he was being held.

A happy ending that would see her husband return to the farmhouse in the village of Underhill in the north-eastern state of Vermont where the couple live.

"I have faith in my husband," Mrs Phillips said, in an interview with local television station WCAX while he was being held.

"You know, he's a smart man and I know he'll be all right."

She said her husband - who graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy - has been sailing for more than 20 years.

Relatives and crew said Capt Phillips , a father of two in his early fifties, offered himself as a hostage to the pirates in order to save his crew of his ship, the Maersk Alabama.

After Capt Phillips made unsuccessful attempt to escape the lifeboat on which he was being held, his sister-in-law said "that is what he would do."

"It's just who he is and his response as a captain," Gina Coggio told ABC's Good Morning America.

His mother-in-law described him as "a really good father, husband and provider".

Richard Phillips in 1979 (Courtesy Massachusetts Maritime Academy)
He graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1979

"His business is serious to him when he's out to sea, but at home he's a lot of fun," Catherine Coggio, 79, told the Boston Herald newspaper.

She said the "beautiful sunrises and sunsets" had drawn him to the sea, but that he is also an avid skier and football fan.

Capt Phillips originally thought he would study international law, but transferred from the University of Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in order to become a ship captain, graduating in 1979.

He also drove a Boston taxi before completing his maritime training.

A neighbour told the paper he "works like a beaver" on his house when he is not at sea.

The couple's two children are both at college in the New England area.

Mrs Phillips, a registered nurse, said she is "always concerned" about the possible dangers of her husband's work.

She said her husband had mentioned increasing piracy in a recent e-mail, in which he told her that he was heading to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

"I had always hoped it wasn't going to happen to us," she said.

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