One dead, 14 rescued, ship's captain still missing off NC coast

PORTSMOUTH, VA (WBTV/AP) - One crew member is dead, 14 others have been rescued and the ship's captain is still missing after a tall ship in distress was abandoned off North Carolina's Outer Banks during Hurricane Sandy.

Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert said Monday morning that the 14 of the 16 people aboard the HMS Bounty have gotten into two lifeboats, wearing survival suits and life jackets.

The Coast Guard later found one of the two remaining crew members unresponsive.  She was rushed to Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City where she died from her injuries on Monday night.

Hospital officials confirmed to WBTV that Claudene Christian, 42, died.

The captain, Robin Walbridge, 63, is still missing.

"Thank you to everyone for your support and prayers at this devastating time," a Facebook page for the ship stated on Monday night. "We want to thank the USCG for their bravery and risking their lives to save ours. At this time, 14 crew members have been safely returned to land."

The page confirms that there were 16 crew members aboard the Bounty when it started taking on water.

"With sadness in our hearts we are reporting that we have lost one crew member and still missing another," the statement on the page continued. "The USCG is continuing their effort to search for our last crew member. Please continue to send your love and support to us, it is much needed."

The 16 people donned cold water survival suits and life jackets before launching in two 25-man lifeboats with canopies.

Coast Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba helped rescue crew members from a lifeboat and also helped save a crew member floating alone in the water. He says it was some of the biggest seas he has ever been in.

The survivors were taken to Air Station Elizabeth City on the North Carolina coast.
The director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin, said that the tall ship left Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Fla.

She said the crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and tried to go around the storm.

The ship was about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., when the ship's owner called saying she'd lost contact with the crew Sunday night.

The 180-foot, three-masted ship is a replica of one made famous in the film "Mutiny on the Bounty" and was featured in that movie.

Weydert says the ship has been which is taking on water and is without propulsion.

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