The HMS Bounty, a replica of the historic British ship, is shown moored at Annapolis, Md., in 2010. It reportedly sank at sea early Monday after the Coast Guard rescued 14 of 16 crewmembers off the coast of North Carolina in the path of Hurricane Sandy.
(Photo: Blake Sell, AP)
Doug Stanglin and Michael Winter, USA TODAY
One crewmember of the tall ship HMS Bounty died and U.S. Coast Guard teams battling Hurricane Sandy rescued 14 others who had abandoned the movie replica before it sank off North Carolina early Monday. The captain is missing.
The body of 42-year-old Claudene Christian was found Monday evening, the Coast Guard reported. The search continues for the 63-year-old captain, Robin Walbridge.
A helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., found Christian, who was "unresponsive." CPR was performed, and she was then flown to Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City. Hospital spokesman Patrick Detwiller said Christian arrived at 6:40 p.m. ET and was pronounced dead at 7 p.m.
She and Walbridge reportedly were swept overboard when they got into lifeboats. Both were in cold-water survival suits and life jackets, CBC News says.
Monday morning, the CBC spoke by phone with Christian's mother, who said her daughter had contacted her before heading out to sea.
"She says, 'We're heading out, and I just wanted to tell you and Dad that I love you.' And I said, 'What are you saying that for?' And she said, 'Just in case something happens,'" Christian said from Oklahoma. "She was truly and genuinely happy and loved the Bounty and loved what she was doing - and wanted us to know that just in case she went down with the ship."
Walbridge''s wife, Claudia McCann, told CBC earlier Monday, "He was just trying to avoid (the hurricane), skirt it. Skirt through it, skirt around it. I'm sure he's devastated. Absolutely devastated. But the crew comes first, and you have to save the crew."
The 180-foot, three-masted ship was built for the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty and was also featured in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, according to the HMS Bounty Organization website, the AP said.
The Coast Guard said all 16 members of the crew had made it onto life rafts before the three-masted ship sank, but only 14 people were hoisted to safety about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C.
Coast Guard officials reported that the 14, who were flown to Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., for medical attention, did not sustain any life-threatening injuries.
WITN-TV reporter Alize Proisy, who was at the Air Station were the survivors were brought in, reported that Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba helped remove crewmembers from a lifeboat and also helped save one crewmember floating alone in the water.
Haba told WITN that that wind-driven ocean at the scene was some of the biggest seas he has ever been in.
A Coast Guard Hercules C-130 remained on the scene as officials plotted wind direction and speed to aid in the search.
The Coast Guard also reported that the HMS Bounty had sunk, although its mast was still visible above the water. The Coast Guard also said there were only 16 people aboard the ship when it ran into trouble, not 17 as initially reported.
The director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin, said the tall ship had left Connecticut last week en route for St. Petersburg, Fla., the Associated Press reported.
"They were staying in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center," she said. "They were trying to make it around the storm."
The first helicopter reached the scene around 6:30 a.m., about 90 minutes after the crew abandoned ship, and hoisted five people aboard. The second chopper plucked nine people from a second life raft.
The 14 were safely back at the Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., by mid-morning, WITN-TV reported.
The crew abandoned the ship, which had lost propulsion, after it began taking on water, the Coast Guard said, according to the Associated Press.
The ship was trapped in 40-mph winds and 18-foot seas about 160 miles west of the eye of the hurricane, according to a Coast Guard statement.
Coast Guard Vice Adm. Robert Parker, Operational Commander for the Atlantic Area, told ABC's Good Morning America that at the time of the distress call, the ship was taking on 2 feet of water an hour. It had about 10 feet of water when the crew abandoned the ship.
The Coast Guard first received a call Sunday evening from the ship's owner who said she had lost communication with the crew.
A signal from the ship's emergency radio beacon later confirmed that the vessel was in distress and gave its position.
Here is how HMS Bounty Facebook page described what happened:
We received a distress call for Bounty at 1830 Sunday evening that the Ship lost power and the pumps were unable to keep up with the dewatering. At that time we immediately contacted the USCG for assistance.