Coast Guard: missing 'Bounty' crew member found - FOX 13 News

Coast Guard: missing 'Bounty' crew member found

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The Coast Guard reported that crews found one of the missing crew members of a tall ship that went down off the North Carolina coast, but she was unresponsive.

On the HMS Bounty Facebook page, word was that crew member did not survive.

"With sadness in our hearts we are reporting that we have lost one crew member," the post said.

The Coast Guard is still searching for the captain, 63 year-old Robin Walbridge of St. Petersburg. The Coast Guard said he was wearing protective gear that should keep him alive in the cold Atlantic waters for 12 to 15 hours.

The ship began taking on water and the crew had to abandon it about 5 a.m. Monday in the rough waters churned up by Hurricane Sandy. The 14 other crew members were rescued.

A replica tall ship heading for St. Petersburg was caught in Hurricane Sandy's wrath, taking on water and forcing the crew to abandon the boat in rough seas off the North Carolina coast.

VIDEO: Watch the Coast Guard rescuing the crew in the video player above.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members by helicopter Monday but two people were still missing, the AP reported.

The HMS Bounty is well known to the Bay area. It is a replica of the one made famous in the 1960 MGM film "Mutiny on the Bounty" and it was used in that film, which starred Marlin Brando. The ship was also used in the film "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

The Bounty was docked at the St. Pete Pier for years as a tourist attraction until it was sold in the 1980s.

It had left Connecticut last week for St. Pete, with an event planned at the St. Pete Pier Nov. 10-11. It's hope was to make it around Sandy, which moved up along the U.S. east coast.

The Coast Guard initially received a call from the owner of the 180-foot, three-mast ship late Sunday evening, saying communication had been lost with the vessel's crew. The Coast Guard in Portsmouth, Va., later received an emergency distress call from the Bounty, confirming its position.

LINK: HMS Bounty Facebook page updates

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 two feet of water an hour. It had about 10 feet of water when the crew abandoned the ship.

Most of the crew made it into canopied, 25-foot rubber life rafts, he said. Amid winds of 40 mph and 18-foot seas, two helicopters flew in for the rescue about 6:30 a.m. Monday, plucking crew members from the life boats.

The first helicopter rescued nine people and the second picked up five crew members a short time later about 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill said. 

Those rescued were being taken to Air Station Elizabeth City on the North Carolina coast. Hill had no immediate word on their conditions.

The ship left Connecticut on Thursday when Sandy was over Cuba, and its path and effect on the East Coast was still somewhat certain. Sandy was forecast to be several hundred miles off the Carolinas coast and the Outer Banks were not in the cone of uncertainty.

Days before it sank, the vessel had rerouted to avoid the brunt of Hurricane Sandy. However, a statement on its website acknowledged, "this will be a tough voyage for Bounty."

Carol Everson, general manager of The Pier, told the AP the crew was "very excited about coming down." The Bounty's captain, Robin Walbridge, was from St. Petersburg, she said.

She and other employees of The Pier were closely following the story.

"It's devastating," she said. "Obviously you want all of the crew to be safe. It's a shame that the vessel has gone down because it's a tremendous piece of history and a great piece of history for St. Petersburg."

Wallbridge learned to sail at age 10, according to his biography on the Bounty's website. Prior to the Bounty, he served as first mate on the H.M.S. Rose -- the Bounty's sister ship.

The ship was permanently docked in St. Petersburg for many decades. In 1986, it was bought by Ted Turner, and in 2001, it was purchased by its current owner, New York businessman named Robert Hansen.

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

In recent years, the ship has wintered in Puerto Rico and travels in the spring and summer. In August, large crowds greeted the ship when it sailed into St. Augustine, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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