Hurricane Sandy may have claimed its first American victims today as it sank a tall ship and washed away two crew members as they tried to board a life boat.
Fourteen people were rescued from the floundering HMS BOUNTY early this morning and an urgent search is on in the churning seas for the two missing sailors.
The BOUNTY, a three masted ship, was 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., when the owner called saying she’d lost contact with the crew Sunday night, The AP reported. The BOUNTY is a 180-foot replica of the ship featured in the film “Mutiny on the Bounty.”
“There have been 14 people rescued and there are two that are still unaccounted for,” Jordan Campbell, Petty Officer, First Class told ABCNews.com.
The survivors were taken to Air Station Elizabeth City on the North Carolina coast. Lt. Junior Grade Brendan Selerno told ABCNews.com that two people were admitted to the hospital, one with a broken arm and one with an injured back.
The ship left Connecticut last week for St. Petersburg, Fla. The crew had been in constant contact with the National Hurricane Center and tried to go around the storm, according to the director of the HMS Bounty Organization, Tracie Simonin.
But the ship got caught in Sandy’s fury and began taking on water. The crew was forced to abandon ship during the night and get into lifeboats, wearing survival suits and life jackets.
“What we know is that the whole crew was getting ready to board the life rafts, and as they were about to board, three people ended up on the water. One was able to get out [of the water] and get into rafts, and the other two are still unaccounted,” Selerno told ABCNews.com.
Cold water survival suits, also called Gumby suits, staved off hypothermia for the shipwrecked sailors.
Coast Guard video of the rescues shows the sailors being plucked from covered life rafts and hauled into the helicopter.
A Coast Guard plane spotted the ship before it went down and directed two rescue helicopters to the scene. At 6:40 a.m., the H65 Jayhawk helicopters hoisted 14 people out of their lifeboats and into the choppers.
The survivors were taken to Air Station Elizabeth City on the North Carolina coast.
The Coast Guard is conducting a search and rescue operation for the missing. Currently a C120 plane and a helicopter are on the scene and Coast Guard Cutter Elm and the Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin will be sent to aid in the search.
Initial reports said there were 17 people on the Bounty, but the manifest indicated the ship only has 16 people aboard