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Coast Guard to look at Bounty's sinking Tuesday
[February 11, 2013]

Coast Guard to look at Bounty's sinking Tuesday

Feb 11, 2013 (The Virginian-Pilot - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The full story of how the sailing ship Bounty was lost off Cape Hatteras during Hurricane Sandy could be revealed this week in a hotel conference room.

The Coast Guard hearing into the sinking of the Bounty starts Tuesday at the Renaissance Portsmouth Hotel and Waterfront Conference Center.

Investigators have summoned to testify the ship's owners, crew members, Maine shipyard staffers who worked on the Bounty and officials with other tall ships. The purpose of the hearing is to determine what led to the Bounty's sinking in order to prevent similar events, according to Coast Guard officials. The hearing could lead to recommendations to improve the safety and operations of similar vessels.

Sixteen people were aboard when the Bounty rolled in heavy seas early Oct. 29 about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras.

Crew member Claudene Christian, 42, died, and Bounty Capt. Robin Walbridge, 63, was never found.

Thirteen crew members managed to get into two life rafts. The ship's first mate clung to an emergency rescue beacon in the ocean. Two Coast Guard helicopters with rescue swimmers saved 14 people.

The Bounty had set sail in New London, Conn., on Oct. 25, bound for St. Petersburg, Fla. Ship officials explained the decision to leave port with Hurricane Sandy on the way on the ship's Facebook page: "Rest assured that the Bounty is safe and in very capable hands. Bounty's current voyage is a calculated decision... NOT AT ALL... irresponsible or with a lack of foresight as some have suggested. The fact of the matter is... A SHIP IS SAFER AT SEA THAN IN PORT!" Trouble started when the ship lost power, which meant it had no propulsion and could not pump out water, according to the vessel's website.

Before departing New London, Capt. Walbridge told people his plan was to sail to the southeast quadrant of the hurricane and ride it out. After sailing east, the Bounty cut southwest across Sandy's path before going down in 18-foot seas.

The replica ship Bounty was built in 1960 and sailed to Tahiti for the filming of MGM studio's "Mutiny on the Bounty," starring Marlon Brando, depicting the famed 1798 mutiny.

The hearing is scheduled to run through Feb. 21.

A hearing on the 1983 sinking of the coal ship Marine Electric off Chincoteague that claimed 31 lives led to more rigorous ship inspections, the requirement to have survival suits aboard ships and ultimately to the creation of the Coast Guard's rescue swimmer program.

Aaron Applegate, 757-222-5122, ___ (c)2013 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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