Survivors Recall HMS Bounty's Last Moments At Hearing

Federal hearings end on Thursday after the tall ship sank in Hurricane Sandy after departing New London in October.

Several surviving crew members of the HMS Bounty have recalled the tall ship's final moments during an investigation into the vessel's loss.

Six people who were on board the ship before she went down during Hurricane Sandy have testified before a federal safety panel of Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board officials, according to WTVR. The investigation, which is scheduled to run through Thursday, is examining the cause of the sinking and will make recommendations on how to prevent a similar incident in the future.

The ship left New London, Conn. on Oct. 25 en route to St. Petersburg, Fla., and sank about 90 miles off the coast of Hatteras, N.C., in rough seas kicked up by Hurricane Sandy. The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members and several hours later found 42-year-old Claudene Christian, who was later pronounced dead. The Bounty's captain, 62-year-old Robin Walbridge, was never found.

The ship's owner, Robert Hansen – who owns East Setauket-based Islandaire – has invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and declined to testify before the panel.

Engineer Christopher Barksdale said Monday that a number of systems on the ship were failing prior to the sinking, according to the Chronicle Herald. Barksdale said the port engine shut down and a sail blew out during the crisis, and that the crew worked together to clear debris from the systems. He also said Walbridge and a former engineer had rebuilt the generator.

Matthew Sanders, the Bounty's second mate, said Monday that the hydraulic pump twice stopped working after it was clogged with debris and that rising water short-circuited the starboard generator. Sanders also said he was able to restore power to the port engine for three or four hours.

Crew member Laura Groves testified Friday that Walbridge brought the crew together to try to figure out what had led to the situation where the ship needed to be abandoned, according to the Associated Press. The crew prepared to abandon ship, but the ship rolled before an orderly evacuation could be organized and people were thrown into the water.

In prior testimony, the Bounty's  said Walbridge favored trying to repair the ship's systems and stem the flooding, twice refusing Svendsen's suggestion to abandon ship before agreeing to do so. Todd Kosakowski, a project manager at Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine, said he warned Walbridge that he had discovered rot in the frame of the Bounty during an overhaul in September and October and that Walbridge opted to have the issue addressed at a later date.

The investigation is taking place in Portsmouth, Va., and will run through Feb. 21.


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