NTSB determines Bounty sinking a result of reckless decisions

Published on February 10th, 2014

It was October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy became the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (as measured by diameter), with damage in excess of $68 billion (2013 USD), and claiming the lives of at least 286 people along the path of the storm.

Two of those who died were onboard the 180-foot, three-mast ship HMS Bounty, which sank off the coast of North Carolina after it was caught in Hurricane Sandy.

The ship, which was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie, “Mutiny on the Bounty”, had left Connecticut en route for St. Petersburg, FL, with the intention of sailing around the storm. They never made it. Two people, including the captain, were killed, and three other crewmembers were badly hurt.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which has been investigating the sinking, has now released its final report, which offers new details about the survivors’ harrowing escape, and finds fault in the decision to even attempt the trip.

Here’s an excerpt:

The last confirmed sighting of the Bounty was at 1920 on October 29, 2012, when the crew of a Coast Guard cutter saw the vessel lying on its side, awash in the sea, about 13 nautical miles southeast of where the crew had abandoned ship more than 15 hours earlier. It was an end to a voyage that should not have been attempted. To set sail into an approaching hurricane introduced needless risk.

Further, most of the crewmembers were inexperienced and their complement was smaller than usual. In addition, despite the fact that the Bounty took on water even in good conditions―and that wood rot had been discovered during the shipyard period―the captain gave no order to ensure that all onboard pumps were fully operational before departing, even though he knew that the vessel was sure to encounter rough seas during the voyage. This failure on his part further compromised the safety of everyone on board. Finally, the vessel organization did nothing to dissuade the captain from sailing.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that 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. Contributing to the sinking was the lack of effective safety oversight by the vessel organization.

Click here for the National Transportation Safety Board Marine Accident Brief.

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