Panel to look at tall ship's sinking during Sandy

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 9, 2013 at 11:05 am •  Published: February 9, 2013
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The ship's Facebook page acknowledged the risk in the days before the sinking. "This will be a tough voyage," read one posting.

More than a day before the Bounty was lost, another post read: "Rest assured that the Bounty is safe and in very capable hands. Bounty's current voyage is a calculated decision ... The fact of the matter is ... A SHIP IS SAFER AT SEA THAN IN PORT!"

But another tall ship captain said he's mystified by what Walbridge was thinking.

Jan Miles, captain of the clipper ship Pride of Baltimore II, is scheduled to testify and said Walbridge apparently knew he was headed toward an unpredictable hurricane moving faster than his ship. He said he expects to be quizzed about piloting, operating norms, and decision-making on a tall ship.

The public also will hear from officials with Boothbay Harbor Shipyard in Maine, which posted on its blog less than three weeks before the Bounty sank that the ship had been undergoing minor repairs for about a month. The shipyard's president and other officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Some of the most dramatic testimony could come during the three-plus days designated for Bounty crew members, who did not return messages from The Associated Press. Survivors had agreed not to give interviews until the Coast Guard's findings are released, said Larry Jones of St. Augustine, Fla., the father of crew member John Jones.

But 12 of the 14 crew members sat down for a group interview with ABC News about a week after the ship sank.

Crew member Dan Cleveland told ABC he had been through two other hurricanes aboard the Bounty with Walbridge and "the ship was in great shape." But with dead engines and the ship taking on water, the crew waited for a relatively calm spell to clamber onto deck to abandon ship, crew member John Svendsen said.

"That was a very difficult decision," he said.

Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer Nyx Cangemi said a final report could still be months or years away.

Though the hearing isn't a criminal proceeding, any evidence of wrongdoing would be referred to federal prosecutors, Cangemi said. Witnesses will be under oath and have the right to be assisted by attorneys during testimony.

The testimony could lead to additional hearings or investigations, Cangemi said. "Whenever there's casualties involved, we just need to make sure we are doing our due diligence for the families and the victims."

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.