NTSB: Bounty captain 'reckless' for sailing through Sandy - FOX 13 News

NTSB: Bounty captain 'reckless' for sailing through Sandy

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Floridians and film buffs knew the tall ship Bounty as a floating movie studio that first appeared in the famous movie bearing its name. But a new report by the NTSB makes its final voyage sound just as harrowing as any Hollywood script.

En route to St. Petersburg, the Bounty sank after sailing into the path of Hurricane Sandy back in October 2012. Two people, including the captain, were killed, and three other crewmembers were badly hurt.

The NTSB investigated the sinking and released its final report, which offers new details about the survivors' harrowing escape -- and slams the decision to even attempt the voyage.

"Although this wooden ship was modeled after an 18th century vessel, the captain had access to 21st century hurricane modeling tools that predicted the path and severity of Hurricane Sandy," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "The Bounty's crew was put into an extraordinarily hazardous situation through decisions that by any measure didn't prioritize safety."

The report describes the ship slowly losing its battle with the storm -- filling with water as the pumps, unable to keep up, are eventually cut off when crewmembers have to flee from the flooded engine room in order to avoid electrocution. The ship loses power and eventually capsizes in the storm.

The battered crew abandoned ship around 4:30 a.m. on October 29, in seas of more than 20 feet with winds gusting over 100 mph, the report says. The scene was chaotic as the ship's rigging tangled some crewmembers attempting to swim away, while others hung on to an uninflated life raft while being tossed in the darkness.

Eventually, the Coast Guard picked up the survivors and later located the body of one victim.

The captain, Robin Walbridge of St. Pete, was never found, and the NTSB report did not mince words about his role.

"The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the sinking of tall ship Bounty was the captain's reckless decision to sail the vessel into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy, which subjected the aging vessel and the inexperienced crew to conditions from which the vessel could not recover," the report concluded. "Contributing to the sinking was the lack of effective safety oversight by the vessel organization."

FULL REPORT: http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/MAB1403.pdf

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