Local News

US Coast Guard to investigate tall ship's sinking

Posted November 2, 2012 8:34 a.m. EDT
Updated January 10, 2013 11:25 a.m. EST

— The U.S. Coast Guard has opened a formal investigation to determine what exactly caused a famous tall ship to sink off the North Carolina coast Monday.

A member of the 16-person HMS Bounty crew died and the captain is missing after the three-mast vessel went down in the turbulent waters caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Search crews spent more than 90 hours this week covering approximately 12,000 nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean looking for the ship's captain, Robin Walbridge, 63, who ordered his crew to abandon ship after the Bounty began taking on water and its engines failed.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members Monday morning and found Claudene Christian, 42, unresponsive Monday afternoon. She died at a hospital in Elizabeth City later that day.

Rescuers suspended their search for Walbridge Thursday evening.

According to the Coast Guard, a formal investigation will involve collecting evidence and testimony to determine whether the ship had any equipment failure. In addition to finding the cause of the accident, it will also look at whether there was any act of misconduct or negligence.

A hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 12-21 in Portsmouth.

The National Transportation Safety Board is also participating in the investigation.

Walbridge was a longtime experienced sailor who had been in a lot of storms, according to those who knew him.

When the Bounty set sail last week in an effort to protect the ship from Hurricane Sandy and the forecasted 12-foot tidal surge, Walbridge believed he could navigate the ship around the storm.

After two days in rough seas though, he realized his journey would be far more difficult, according to posts on the HMS Bounty's Facebook page.