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One dead after Sandy forces HMS Bounty crew to abandon ship, captain still missing


The ship was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (Courtesy: Donnie Morris)
The ship was built in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia (Courtesy: Donnie Morris)

The Canadian Press

October 30, 2012 — The HMS Bounty, a Canadian-built 19th century sailing replica got caught in Hurricane Sandy's wrath and began taking on water Monday, forcing the crew into lifeboats in rough seas off the North Carolina coast.

The US Coast guard rescued 14 people from the ship by helicopter on Monday
The US Coast guard rescued 14 people from the ship by helicopter on Monday

The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 people by helicopter Monday and spent much of the day searching for two missing crew members.

One of them, 42-year-old Claudene Christian, was found unresponsive in the water on Monday evening. She was taken to hospital, but was later pronounced dead.

Rescuers continued to search for the missing captain of the HMS Bounty, 63-year-old Robin Walbridge.

Both Christian and Wallbridge, and a third crewman who managed to make it to a lifeboat, were washed overboard. They were wearing survival suits designed to help keep them afloat and protected from cold waters for up to 15 hours.

Coast Guard officials said Tuesday the fact the captain was wearing a survival suit increased his chances of survival, and the search for him continued Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba helped pluck several crew members off a 25-foot rubber life raft. He was also lowered to a crew member floating in the water alone. He wrapped a strap around his body, and raised him to the chopper.

"It's one of the biggest seas I've ever been in. It was huge out there," Haba said.

The HMS Bounty which was built at Smith and Ruhland Shipyard in Lunenburg, N.S. for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty" had left Connecticut last week en route to Florida.

"They were staying in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center," said Tracie Simonin, the director of the HMS Bounty Organization. "They were trying to make it around the storm."

Sandy caused widespread flooding in the Caribbean last week (courtesy: Joanne Ross)
Sandy caused widespread flooding in the Caribbean last week (courtesy: Joanne Ross)

Amid high winds and 5.5-metre seas, two helicopters flew in for the rescue around dawn Monday, plucking crew members from the lifeboats.

Lunenburg Mayor Laurence Mahwinney called the incident a tragedy, saying the town's residents were praying for the safety of the crew members.

Gerald Zwicker, 76, who worked on the building of the HMS Bounty in 1960, said he was devastated when he heard the ship had been abandoned.

"I really feel bad about it. It's a piece of history gone. It's a big loss," he said in an interview from his home in southern Nova Scotia.

"They were talking about that hurricane all last week. They should have been out of that area."

The ship was permanently docked in St. Petersburg for many decades.

About 10 years ago, the ship underwent a multi-million dollar restoration.

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