U.S. Coast Guard Investigates HMS Bounty Maritime Accident

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

A maritime attorney may be called to action following an accident involving a sunken vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard has opened an investigation into the sinking of the HMS Bounty. The vessel, a three-masted tall ship, was one of the first impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Crewmembers were forced to abandon ship. One crewmember was killed while the captain’s body has yet to be recovered.

According to a Coast Guard statement, the investigation will “probe every aspect of the accident and will determine as closely as possible” what caused it, whether it was equipment failure or human error, and if it or any other government agency contributed to the confirmed death of one crewmember and the presumed death of the Bounty’s captain.

The Bounty sent out a distress call while off the coast of North Carolina as Sandy’s high winds began causing turmoil at sea. The eye of the storm was located 150 miles to the east of the Bounty at the time and shortly after the emergency signal was sent, the crew abandoned ship and boarded life rafts.

Coast Guard helicopters responded to the scene and were able to rescue 14 of the 16 crewmembers roughly 90 miles east of Cape Hatteras, N.C. Two crewmembers remained unaccounted for, however. After several hours, Claudene Christian, 42, was found in the Atlantic Ocean. She was unresponsive and was later declared dead. The ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, is still missing.

“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, in a statement. “Suspending a search and rescue case is one of the hardest decisions we have to make.”

Cameron and Cmdr. Kevin M. Carrol, who heads the Coast Guard 5th District’s investigations branch, is leading the investigation into the maritime accident, which could take several months to finalize. However, the Coast Guard warned that while the Coast Guard does investigate maritime accidents for the purpose of promoting safety, it is not responsible for conducting criminal investigations.

“Coast Guard investigations of marine casualties and accidents are for the purpose of taking appropriate measures for promoting safety of life and property and are not intended to fix civil or criminal responsibility,” said the Coast Guard.

The vessel that sank was a replica of the original HMS Bounty, used by the British in the 1700s. The replica had been featured in several Hollywood films, including one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.

According to authorities, Walbridge believed he would be able to navigate around the storm. Unfortunately, setting sail when there is news of unfavorable weather conditions – especially a Superstorm like Sandy – places the lives of everyone onboard the vessel at risk. Anyone who has been involved in a maritime accident can seek legal help, especially if the incident was believed to have been caused by someone’s negligence or wrongdoing.

If you or someone you know was injured or killed while onboard a cruise ship, cargo vessel or personal water craft, turn to a maritime attorney at our firm today to discuss your options.

PHOTO CREDIT: Coast Guard Compass – Official Blog of the U.S. Coast Guard