NTSB blames tall ship 'HMS Bounty' sinking on captain

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)

February 10, 2014 11:44:40 AM PST
A National Transportation Safety Board report published Monday blames the captain of the "HMS Bounty" for the tall ship's sinking off the North Carolina coast in October 2012 during Hurricane Sandy.

The sailing vessel went down after an engine failure and it began taking on water off Cape Hatteras. The crew abandoned ship in lifeboats and the Coast Guard rescued 14. One crewmember and Captain Robin Walbridge were killed.

The "HMS Bounty" was a replica of the original 18th Century British Admiralty ship of the same name. It was built for MGM Studios for the 1962 movie, "Mutiny on the Bounty."

The NTSB report says Walbridge's "reckless decision to sail into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy" was the probable cause of the sinking of the ship.

"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 NTSB said some crewmembers expressed concern that sailing the ship into the storm was dangerous, but Captain Walbridge assured them that the Bounty could handle the rough seas.

The report also says that, prior to sailing, the Bounty had been in a Maine shipyard for repairs to the wooden hull which had known areas of rot. The NTSB alleges some of the work was done by an inexperienced crew with a silicone sealant marketed for household use.

The entire report is available at http://www.ntsb.gov/doclib/reports/2014/MAB1403.pdf

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