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East County Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009 10 years ago

A Hero's Welcome

by: Jen Blanco Sports Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Lakewood Ranch resident Ken Quinn considers himself to be nothing more than your average working guy.

But to his family, friends and fellow neighbors, Quinn is a hero.

“We’ve been so busy that he hasn’t actually told me the whole story yet,” said Zoya Quinn, Ken Quinn’s wife. “I just feel that he’s my hero. That’s all I can say.”

Quinn was working aboard the Maersk Alabama when a group of Somali pirates seized the U.S. cargo ship April 8. The second mate returned home to a hero’s welcome April 21 on Lakewood Ranch Main Street. Quinn rode down the street holding his 3-year-old son, Jason, and waving out the top of his limousine to the dozens of friends and neighbors who had come to show their support.

“It’s overwhelming … this doesn’t happen to regular people,” Quinn said. “It’s great to be home. It (feels) good to be a part of a community and to be received by your neighbors like this.”

With his wife and two sons, Jason, and Justin, 2 months, by his side, Quinn recounted the events of his terrifying ordeal, which began three weeks ago. While sailing off the Horn of Africa, four Somali pirates scaled the Maersk Alabama and made their way onto the ship.

Quinn spent 10 hours locked inside a safe room with 13 other crewmembers while his captain surrendered himself. At the time, all Quinn could think about was protecting himself and the rest of the crew so he could make it back home to his family.

At some point during those long hours in the dark, the ship’s chief engineer jumped the pirates’ leader and brought him into the safe room with the rest of the crew. While administering first aid to the wounded pirate, Quinn was taken aback by the pirate’s expensive footwear.

“I said, ‘Man this guy’s got my shoes on,’” a smiling Quinn said. “He was wearing a pair of flip-flops, but they all came aboard barefoot. So I took them back — they’re right here — and I gave him an old pair. I keep wondering if he’s still wearing them.”

Capt. Richard Phillips was held for five days in a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean. On April 11, the American crew was able to escape and dock in Kenya. U.S. Navy SEALs rescued Phillips the following day after shooting and killing three of the pirates.

Now that he’s safely back home, Quinn plans on spending time with his family. However, Quinn’s ordeal hasn’t stopped him from wanting to return to the sea. Quinn said he plans to look for a berth on another ship.

“I need to get my pension out of this,” Quinn said.

Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].

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