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16 crew members were in 2 life-rafts off North Carolina coast.
At least two crew members of a Nova Scotia-built replica vessel are missing after abandoning ship off the coast of North Carolina in high seas brought on by Hurricane Sandy.
Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard told CBC News the 16-member crew of HMS Bounty decided to abandon ship after getting caught in 5.5-metre seas off Cape Hatteras on Monday.
All the crew members made it onto two covered life-rafts but only 14 people were hoisted onto helicopters, said U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Brendan Selerno. He said officials have not yet had the chance to debrief the 14 survivors to find out what happened to the two other crew members.
Selerno said the two missing crew members are believed to be in cold water survival suits and life-jackets. He said the air search is being plotted based on wind direction and speed, and will be expanded.
HMS Bounty sank several hours after the evacuation.
The Coast Guard was originally told 17 people were on the Bounty but only 16 heat signatures were detected. They now say 16 people were on board. The boat's owner says there were 17 people on board.
A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter arrived on scene at approximately 6:30 a.m. and hoisted five people from the life-rafts. A second helicopter arrived and rescued nine more people.
The U.S. Coast Guard was contacted on Sunday night after the ship began taking on water. A Hercules C-130 aircraft was dispatched to try to get the crew to safety.
"We had a C-130 on scene that was running out of fuel and experiencing a little crew fatigue, so we dispatched another C-130 to arrive on scene and relieve them," said Petty Officer 1st Class Jordan Campbell.
The Hercules C-130 remains on the scene in the search for the missing crew members. A third MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter is on the way to assist in the search effort, said the U.S. Coast Guard.
Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard said the winds in the area are sustained in the 75 km/h range.
Claudia McCann, whose husband is the captain of the Bounty, said she hadn't slept since she received word the ship was taking on water.
She said her husband, Captain Robin Walbridge, was trying to get around Hurricane Sandy en route to Florida.
"He was just trying to avoid it, skirt it. Skirt through it, skirt around it," McCann said Monday.
"I'm sure he's devastated. Absolutely devastated. But the crew comes first and you have to save the crew."
Claudene Christian, whose daughter Claudene is a crew member on the Bounty, said her daughter had contacted her before heading out on her journey.
"She says, 'We're heading out and I just wanted to tell you and dad that I love you.' And I said, 'What are you saying that for?' And she said, 'Just in case something happens,'" Christian said in a phone interview from Oklahoma.
"She was truly and genuinely happy and loved the Bounty and loved what she was doing — and wanted us to know that just in case she went down with the ship."
The replica of HMS Bounty, which launched in Lunenburg in 1960, was made famous in a 1962 movie starring Marlon Brando — Mutiny on the Bounty. It has also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest starring Johnny Depp.