The Coast Guard announced Thursday it was suspending its search for the missing captain of the HMS Bounty, a replica 18th-century tall ship that sank off the North Carolina Coast.
Robin Walbridge, 63, of St. Petersburg, Fla., vanished early Monday morning, when the HMS Bounty got caught in rough waters from Superstorm Sandy and sunk 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard said it searched more than 90 hours for Walbridge, covering about 12,000 overlapping square nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean.
Search and rescue crews were initially hopeful to find Waldbridge alive, because he was wearing a survival suit and the waters were relatively warm, the Coast Guard said. Teams used ships, helicopters and large planes to look for the captain, but there was no sign of him. The search was suspended at around 6:42 p.m. Thursday, said Lt. Michael Patterson, of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Before the HMS Bound sunk, it sent out a distress signal Sunday night, the Coast guard said. At around 4:30 a.m. Monday, Captain Walbridge advised his crew to abandon the 180-foot, three-mast ship.
The Coast Guard was able to rescue 14 crew members from their life boat Monday. They were taken to Elizabeth City, where they were treated for non life-threatening injuries, the Coast Guard said. A 15th crew member, 42-year-old Claudene Christian, was found unresponsivle, and was pronounced dead at a hospital.
“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.”
Wallbridge learned to sail at age 10, according to his biography on the Bounty's website. Prior to the Bounty, he served as first mate on the HMS. Rose — the Bounty's sister ship.
The HMS Bounty was going from Connecticut to St. Petersburg, Fla. when it sank.
The ship departed Connecticut on Thursday, when Sandy was over Cuba, and its path and effect on the East Coast was still somewhat certain. Sandy was then forecast to be several hundred miles off the Carolinas coast.
Days before it sank, the vessel had rerouted to avoid the brunt of Sandy. However, a statement on its website acknowledged, "this will be a tough voyage for Bounty," the Tampa Bay Times reported.
"[The crew members] were staying in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center," said Tracie Simonin, the director of the HMS Bounty Organization. "They were trying to make it around the storm."
The ship was built for the 1962 film "Mutiny on the Bounty," which starred Marlon Brando, and has been featured in other movies. It was also featured in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."