Exclusive: Ship crew member's fiancee speaks

April 10, 2009 5:14:39 AM PDT
The fiancee of a local member of the hijacked ship talks to Action News. A Montgomery County family is ecstatic tonight that they're loved one onboard the cargo ship is safe and coming home soon. However, it has been a harrowing ordeal for his fiancee.

"It feels like a dream, you keep thinking it can't possibly be happening," Heather Giardinelli said.

Heather Giardinelli had worried about the recent hijackings off the Horn of Africa and did not want her fiancé, 46-year-old John Cronan to go on this trip.

"And we had discussed this and he promised me that he was going to come home," Heather said.

Cronan, a family man with 3 children, served as an engineer in the ship's engine room.

On Tuesday, Heather had e-mailed John to warn him the news was reporting that pirates had seized 5 other vessels in the area. She now realizes it was too late. The Maersk Alabama was also being hijacked.

Her heart sank, but she and good family friend, lawyer Michael Forbes had a gut feeling that John would want to do something.

"And he was not going to be hijacked by pirates, not if there was anything he could do about it," Heather said.

"I'm sure in this type of situation, he's the type of person that you want to be there with you," Michael said.

So they were not surprised to hear that the crew had offered resistance and had disabled the ship to prevent the pirates from taking it.

Heather was ecstatic when John called her briefly by satellite phone to say he was alright.

"He said all hands are safe, all hands are safe, nobody is injured, we have the ship but there are 4 Somalis in the boat, in the lifeboat in the water and they have the captain," Heather said.

Heather says her fiancee sounded gravely concerned for the safety of Captain Richard Phillips, but she has been reassured by Congressman Joe Sestak, a former Navy admiral whom she consulted, that the Navy has the upper hand.

Meanwhile, the Alabama, which is now under naval escort, is expected to arrive in Kenya on Saturday and then John Cronan and his fellow crew members are expected to fly back to the United States.

"John better be on his way home as soon as they get back to Kenya or I'm on my way to Kenya," Heather said with a laugh.

Heather says she can't understand how men riding around in boats held together with duct tape can commandeer an American-flagged ship, but she wants people to know that John and his crewmates are brave men who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Follow Action News on Twitter

Get Action News on your website

Follow Action News on Facebook

Click here to get the latest Philadelphia news and headlines from across the Delaware and Lehigh valleys.