, Muskogee, OK

October 30, 2012

Vian woman killed in hurricane

Claudene Christian was crewmember on HMS Bounty

By Dylan Goforth
Phoenix Staff Writer

— A Vian woman pulled from Atlantic Ocean after Hurricane Sandy sank the ship she worked on has died in a North Carolina hospital, said Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart.

Claudene Christian, 42, was a crewmember on the HMS Bounty, a replica ship modeled after a small British Royal Navy merchant vessel.

Sequoyah County Sheriff Ron Lockhart said Christian and her family had moved to Vian from California about three years ago.

“I’ve known them since they moved to the area,” Lockhart said. “It’s a good family, and she was a good girl. She helped me at the sheriff’s office for a short period. That’s how I got to know her.

“She had a huge heart and was always helping and encouraging other people.”

The 16-member crew abandoned the ship after Hurricane Sandy’s high winds capsized the vessel just after midnight Monday, a United States Coast Guard spokeswoman said.

Two Coast Guard rescue helicopters arrived at the ship about 6:30 a.m. Monday and pulled 14 of the 16 crewmembers from two lifeboats.

Christian and the ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, were the only two crewmembers not pulled from the ocean during the initial rescue operation, according to a Coast Guard media release.

The release stated Tuesday the search for Walbridge, 63, is ongoing.

“The Coast Guard is searching an area approximately 1,350 square nautical miles,” the release states.

Christian was pronounced dead late Monday at Albermarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, N.C., a hospital spokesman said.

Photos taken of the ship by the Coast Guard show it resting about 90 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C., with its mastheads sticking out of the dark waters.

The ship’s Facebook page detailed the HMS Bounty’s movements in the days leading up to its sinking. The mood was hopeful over the weekend, with radar images showing the hurricane’s approach in conjunction with the ship’s location.

The HMS Bounty left New London, Conn. on Thursday, sailing due east to avoid Hurricane Sandy’s wrath on its way to St. Petersburg, Fla.

On Saturday, the page posted updates detailing why the ship was safer at sea than in port.

During the next two days, multiple updates were posted by the page’s administrators as the ship’s generators failed and it began taking on water.

Lockhart said a memorial fund had been set up for the Christian family through Armstrong Bank.

The Coast Guard said the HMS Bounty rescue operation was the first rescue operation associated with Hurricane Sandy.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth

You can help

A memorial fund has been established at Armstrong Bank. Bank representatives said donations could be made to the “Claudene Christian Memorial Fund” at any Armstrong Bank location.