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Blue Island man's son survives Sandy

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 9:30 a.m. CDT
(Photo by Coast Guard via Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)
A frame from a video shows a crew member of the HMS Bounty being lifted to a Coast Guard rescue helicopter in a rescue basket Monday, October 29, 2012, 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Coast Guard rescued 14 people from life rafts after the ship went down in the rough seas of Hurricane Sandy.

(MCT) — Jim Salapatek grew anxious as he waited for his phone to ring Monday morning.

His 28-year-old son, Drew, was among the 16 crew members on the HMS Bounty, a tall ship that sank off the coast of North Carolina as Cyclone Sandy blew ashore.

"I didn't know what phone call I was going to get," he said. "I had no idea if he was one of the missing crew members."

Salapatek, a Blue Island resident, said he was relieved when his son finally called to report that he had made it safely to land. He said Drew was in good health and would return home in a couple of days.

"He's doing fine," Salapatek said. "The crew is safe. They just need time to heal."

Drew was not available for comment Tuesday.

The Bounty's longtime captain, Robin Walbridge, remained missing Tuesday evening, and the body of deckhand Claudene Christian was found Monday evening, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard deployed ships and airplanes to search for the 63-year-old captain Tuesday, though 15-foot waves hampered their efforts.

"At this time we are optimistic that we will find the captain alive," said Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill.

The 180-foot-long replica 18th-century sailing vessel, built for the 1962 film version of "Mutiny on the Bounty," rolled over in 18-foot waves about 90 miles off the North Carolina coast.

Hill said two Coast Guard helicopters rescued the 14 surviving crew members around 6:30 a.m. Monday. Several hours later they found Christian, 42, unresponsive. She was later declared dead.

Salapatek said his son joined the crew of the Bounty two years ago after a series of humanitarian missions to Cuba and Haiti sparked his interest in sailing. He said the ship was Drew's home and the crew his second family.

"You get to be more than friends," he said. "They're putting their lives into their fellow crew members' hands. The bonds that develop in these people are phenomenal."

Despite the trauma Drew has endured, Salapatek expects his son will keep sailing.

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