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by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Oct 29, 2012
Hurricane Sandy sank a tall ship off North Carolina Monday, killing one crew member and leaving the captain missing as 14 others were plucked alive from lifeboats by the US Coast Guard.
Claudene Christian, 42, was found "unresponsive" at sea and taken by hospital to hospital amid a dramatic rescue operation in wild Atlantic Ocean swells whipped up by the storm. Her death was later confirmed by the hospital.
The crew abandoned the 55-meter (180-foot) three-mast HMS Bounty, built in 1960 for the film "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando, before it sank in the fierce seas, its owner said.
This voyage, with the ship's permanent, paid crew, left from Connecticut last week and had been due to arrive in Florida on November 10, said Tracey Simonin, director of the ship's owner, The HMS Bounty Organization.
The ship was off the coast of North Carolina when it radioed in a distress call Sunday night.
Before dawn Monday, with the ship lacking power and taking on water, the crew, unable to pump fast enough, abandoned ship and took to two lifeboats in cold water survival suits and life jackets, the Coast Guard said.
Coast Guard helicopters plucked 14 crew members out of the raging water. The woman was found later in the day, but the captain, identified as Robin Walbridge, 63, was still missing.
"A crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City... located Christian who was unresponsive, hoisted her into the helicopter and took her to Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City," a Coast Guard statement said.
At the time of the first rescue, the Bounty was being buffeted by 40 mile-per-hour (65 kilometers-per-hour) winds and 18-foot (five-meter) waves.
One chopper first rescued five people and a second one got nine out of the water, the Coast Guard said.
A Coast Guard C-130 plane first made contact when the vessel was 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
At that time the vessel was about 160 miles west of the eye of Sandy, a monstrous storm bearing down on the US east coast.
The HMS Bounty was a replica of the eponymous British transport vessel known for the mutiny that took place in Tahiti in 1789.
Besides being used in documentaries and Hollywood movies, including "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" with Johnny Depp, the vessel offered tours for people to learn about 18th century square-rigged sailing.
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