U.S. safety board blames captain for 2012 Bounty sinking

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 10, 2014 4:11 PM

By Eric Beech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The sinking of the tall ship Bounty off the North Carolina coast in 2012 was likely caused by the captain's "reckless decision" to sail the vessel into the path of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said on Monday.

Captain Robin Walbridge, 63, and a crew member were killed when the 108-foot-long (33-meter) ship, built for the 1962 movie "Mutiny on the Bounty," sank before dawn on October 29, 2012, about 130 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, after being battered by Sandy's 30-foot (9-meter) seas and 100-mile-per-hour (161 km-per-hour) wind gusts.

Coast Guard helicopters rescued 14 crew members, three of whom were seriously injured, several hours after the ship went down.

"The probable cause of the sinking of tall ship Bounty was the captain's reckless decision to sail the vessel into the well-forecasted path of Hurricane Sandy, which subjected the aging vessel and the inexperienced crew to conditions from which the vessel could not recover," the report concluded.

The NTSB accident report said several crew members had expressed their concerns to the captain about sailing into the storm prior to leaving port at New London, Connecticut, on October 25, 2012, bound for St. Petersburg, Florida.

The captain, whose body was never found, told the crew he was confident the ship could handle the rough weather. He also told a Maine television station that the Bounty had "chased hurricanes," the NTSB report said.

The NTSB said the group responsible for managing the ship did nothing to dissuade the captain for sailing into the storm.

The safety board also said the crew fixed seams in the wooden hull with household kitchen and bath caulk supplied by the captain and which was not recommended for marine use.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; editing by Jon Herskovitz and G Crosse)