Search for ship captain of HMS Bounty suspended

The HMS Bounty, a 180-foot sailboat, is shown submerged in the Atlantic Ocean during Hurricane Sandy approximately 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tim Kuklewski)

November 1, 2012 4:46:21 PM PDT
63-year-old Robin Walbridge has been missing since the tall ship HMS Bounty sank Monday morning.

“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. ”Suspending a search and rescue case is one of the hardest decisions we have to make.”

The tall ship HMS Bounty went down Monday morning after it began taking on water off Cape Hatteras. The crew abandoned ship in two lifeboats and the Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members. Forty-two-year-old Claudene Christian was found unresponsive when she was pulled from the water Monday evening and was later pronounced dead at a hospital..

By the time the first rescue helicopter arrived, all that was visible of the replica 18th-century sailing vessel was a strobe light atop the mighty ship's submerged masts. The roiling Atlantic Ocean had claimed the rest.

An investigation into what went wrong is underway.

The ship was originally built for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty" starring Marlon Brando, and it was featured in several other films over the years, including one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies.

The vessel left Connecticut on Thursday with a crew of 11 men and five women, ranging in age from 20 to 66. Everyone aboard knew the journey could be treacherous.

Bill Foster, mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla, said the city on Florida's Gulf Coast always considered itself the ship's home.

"We're feeling a real sense of loss as a community," he said. "We grew up with the Bounty."

Foster, who was raised in St. Petersburg, remembered the ship as a family tourist attraction along the waterfront in the 1960s and 1970s. He recalled replicas of caves, a history display and pirate-themed exhibits near the Bounty. As a teenager, he attended dances on the ship.

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

The ship generally travels in the spring and summer. In August, large crowds greeted it when sailing into St. Augustine, Fla., Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.

Associated Press writers Emery P. Dalesio, Bruce Smith in Charleston, S.C.; Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Greg Schreier in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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