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More lives are lost as 'Bounty' tall ship sinks

THE final hours of the HMS Bounty were as dramatic as the Hollywood adventure films she starred in, with the crew abandoning ship as their stately craft slowly went down in the immense waves churned up by Hurricane Sandy off the North Carolina coast.

By the time the first rescue helicopter arrived, all that was visible of the replica 18th-century sailing vessel was a strobe light at the top of the mighty ship's submerged masts.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 crew members by helicopter and hours later found another, Claudene Christian (42), but she was unresponsive when pulled from the water and was later pronounced dead at a hospital in Elizabeth City. The search continued for captain Robin Walbridge.

"We pray there's no more loss of life," said Bill Foster, mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, a frequent winter port for the ship and where it had been expected to arrive in November. "When a crew decides it's safer in an inflatable than it is on deck, then you know she's in peril."

The ship was originally built for the 1962 film Mutiny on the Bounty starring Marlon Brando, and it was featured in several other films over the years, including one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

It docked in Cork in June of last year with a number of the crew rescued from the boat on board.

The vessel left Connecticut on Thursday with a crew of 11 men and five women, ranging in age from 20 to 66. Everyone aboard knew the journey could be treacherous.

"This will be a tough voyage for Bounty," read a posting on the ship's Facebook page that showed a map of its coordinates and satellite images of the storm.

As Sandy's massive size became more apparent, a post on Saturday tried to soothe any worried supporters: "Rest assured that the Bounty is safe and in very capable hands.

"Bounty's current voyage is a calculated decision. NOT AT ALL irresponsible or with a lack of foresight as some have suggested.

"The fact of the matter is... A SHIP IS SAFER AT SEA THAN IN PORT!"

But as the storm gathered strength, the Facebook posts grew grimmer.

By mid-morning yesterday, the last update was short and ominous: "Please bear with us. There are so many conflicting stories going on now. We are waiting for some confirmation."