(Reuters) - The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday rescued 14 of the 16 crew who abandoned the replica tall ship HMS Bounty while in the path of Hurricane Sandy off North Carolina, using helicopters to lift them from life rafts, the Coast Guard said.
The Coast Guard continued to search for the two missing crew members about 160 miles from the eye of the storm. Officials had previously reported 17 aboard but later revised the figure to 16.
The first of two MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters arrived on scene at about 6:30 a.m. (1030 GMT) and hoisted five people to safety, and a second helicopter arrived and rescued nine people, the Coast Guard said.
A C-130 Hercules aircraft was searching for the two missing crew members and a third rescue helicopter was on its way, the Coast Guard said.
“The 16 people donned cold water survival suits and life jackets before launching in two 25-man lifeboats with canopies,” the Coast Guard said.
The tall ship was built for the 1962 movie “Mutiny on the Bounty” and lost power while at sea on Sunday night.
The ship was on its way from New London, Connecticut, to St. Petersburg, Florida, said Tracie Simonin, director of the Bounty. She said she was unsure how the captain attempted the navigate the storm.
“The last we heard the ship was still upright,” Simonin said, providing some hope the vessel could still be saved.
The Bounty was about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, North Carolina, or roughly 160 miles from the center of Sandy, a Category 1 hurricane bearing down on the U.S. East Coast, the Coast Guard said.
The three-mast, 180-foot (55-metre) vessel was believed to be taking on water and was without propulsion, stuck in 40 mile-per-hour winds and 18-foot (5.5-metre) seas, the Coast Guard said.
The original Bounty, a British transport vessel, gained infamy for a mutiny in Tahiti in 1789.
The 1962 movie starred Marlon Brando as lead mutineer Fletcher Christian. The replica Bounty has appeared in numerous documentaries and feature films including “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” with Johnny Depp, according to the ship’s website.
Reporting by Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Eric Beech and Mohammad Zargham