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Captain Kidnapped by Somali Pirates Recounts Ordeal in First Interview

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Apr. 17: Richard Phillips the captain of the Maersk Alabama goes through security at the Mombasa airport in Kenya.AP

Former hostage Richard Phillips says he thought he'd never get out of the lifeboat where Somali pirates held him after an aborted hijacking attempt.

In his first interview, Phillips tells the NBC TV network he was resigned to dying at some points during his five-day Indian Ocean ordeal, which ended April 12 when U.S. Navy SEALs on the USS Bainbridge shot his three captors, freeing him.

Phillips, 53, said he discussed escaping in front of the pirates, who he described as "a little lax in their control on some things."

"I did have radio contact with the Maersk Alabama, and I told them if you see a splash in the water ... I'm coming. I had always expected to escape," he said.

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Phillips said his escape attempt made the atmosphere in the lifeboat worse, though he was in "deep trouble" from the very start.

"I was in deep trouble from day one, so it didn't change for me. The atmosphere, the body language, yes, things changed from that point on. Yes, they did."

He said there was always a gun on him while he was in the lifeboat, and that he was preparing to die in it.

"It was just settling everything. Getting ready to die and just settling everything. You know, saying my last thoughts. Andrea, the kids," he said.

The interview, which wife Andrea Phillips participated in, was taped in Vermont and will be broadcast Tuesday on the "Today" show. Excerpts were released Friday night.

Phillips reiterated his praise for the Navy in the interview.

"What I said when I came home is true. These SEALs and the Navy did an impossible job. They're unbelievable people. We really owe it to the military for what they do day in and day out that we never even hear about. What they did was impossible," he said.

Phillips, of Underhill, Vermont, is to be feted there with a picnic celebration in a park Saturday.