WASHINGTON US Coast Guard helicopters plucked 14 crew members of a replica tall ship called the HMS Bounty out of the sea in the midst of Hurricane Sandy Monday, but two others were missing.
The daring rescue in waters off North Carolina came after the crew abandoned ship, donning cold water survival suits and life jackets and launching two canopied life boats into the howling sea.
The Coast Guard, responding to a distress call, dispatched a C-130 airplane and established communications with the crew. That plane was later joined by two MH-60 rescue helicopters from Elizabeth City, North Carolina.
The first helicopter "hoisted five people into the aircraft, and a second helicopter arrived and rescued nine people," a Coast Guard statement said.
"The C-130 Hercules aircraft remains on scene and is searching for the two missing crew members and a third Jayhawk crew is en route to assist search and rescue efforts.
"The 14 people are being flown to Air Station Elizabeth City where they will be met by awaiting emergency medical services personnel," it added, while lowering the crew size to 16, having earlier stated 17 had abandoned ship.
A Coast Guard spokesperson said crew members were being interviewed to try to determine who was still missing, and "where we need to search."
The ship, meanwhile, was reported to have sunk, the spokesperson said.
The owner of the vessel, which was built for the 1962 movie Mutiny on the Bounty with Marlon Brando and has also featured in Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp, said he lost contact with the crew late Sunday.
The US Coast Guard command center in Portsmouth, Virginia subsequently received a distress signal, confirming the ship was in trouble and locating its position.
"The vessel was reportedly taking on water and was without propulsion," the statement said, noting that weather at the scene featured 40 mile-per-hour (65 kilometers-per-hour) winds and 18-foot (five-meter) waves.
The current HMS Bounty is a replica of the eponymous British vessel known for the mutiny that took place in Tahiti in 1789.
The vessel was approximately 160 miles (250 kilometers) west of the eye of hurricane, which as of midday Monday was packing sustained winds of 90 miles (150 kilometers) per hour.
At 1500 GMT, the storm's epicenter was 205 miles (330 kilometers) southeast of Atlantic City but hurricane force winds extend out 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the center, the National Hurricane Center said.
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