Coast Guard suspends search for missing Bounty captain - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Coast Guard suspends search for missing Bounty captain

HMS Bounty (Source: US Coast Guard) HMS Bounty (Source: US Coast Guard)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT/AP) - The Coast Guard suspended the search for the missing captain of the HMS Bounty Thursday evening.

Robin Walbridge, 63, has been missing since earlier Monday morning when the crew had to abandon ship during high waves caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Walbridge and Christian families," said Capt. Doug Cameron, the chief of incident response for the Coast Guard 5th District in an emailed release. "Suspending a search and rescue case is one of the hardest decisions we have to make."

The 18th-century replica tall ship set sail last week and ran into the powerful storm that was moving up the East Coast.
By Monday morning, the ship was taking on water and its engines failed. The crew abandoned ship off the North Carolina coast.

Coast Guard members from Wilmington and Elizabeth City were able to rescue 14 people Monday. Claudene Christian, 42, was killed.

The HMS Bounty had been famously used as major backdrops for movies like the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

The 16 crew member team left Connecticut to head to Florida.  The boat was set to be on display for two days in St. Petersburg.  The group thought it could avoid the storm, but instead, slammed into it.  The ship started taking on water and eventually lost power.  At 4:30 a.m. Monday, the captain called to abandon ship.  By 6:30 a.m., the Coast Guard was attempting to save them. 

The group was trying to get to two life rafts.  Though everyone left the vessel, not everyone made it to the rafts.  Three people did not, but one of those people was able to swim to a raft.

WECT and Fox Wilmington interviewed Walbridge when he was on tour with the ship in May.  Walbridge said he loved living on the ship and said he and the crew often lived as if they were living 200 years ago, when the original ship would have been in its prime.

Some Coast Guard members said the seas were the largest they've ever been in.  The survivors were taken to Air Station Elizabeth City.  The director of the HMS Bounty Organization said the tall ship's crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and tried to go around the storm.

Copyright 2012 WECT.  All Rights Reserved. The AP contributed to this report.

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