Coast Guard rescues 14 from sinking tall ship; 2 missing

7:24 AM, Oct 29, 2012   |    comments
HMS Bounty off coast of Rhode Island in July.
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U.S. Coast Guard helicopters battling the high winds of Hurricane Sandy rescued 14 of 16 crewmembers who abandoned their sinking ship off North Carolina early Monday, but officials said two people were still missing at sea.

The 180-foot, three-masted HMS Bounty -- which sank after the crew took to a pair of life boats -- was built for a 1962 film and has also appeared in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

The Coast Guard said Monday that all 16 members of the HMS Bounty crew had made it onto life rafts before the three-masted ship sank, but only 14 people were hoisted to safety by the two Jayhawk helicopters dispatched from North Carolina.

It was not immediately clear why the two missing crewmembers were not among those rescued 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C.

Coast Guard Lt. Brendan Selerno said that an expanded air search was underway for the missing pair, who were believed to be in cold water survival suits and life jackets, the CBC reported.

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 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.

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.

The HMS Bounty Organization website said the ship was built for the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty, which starred Marlin Brando. The ship was also used in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest., the AP reported.

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