Diving into the Deep

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew Romano

The race for survivors of the HMS Bounty.

U.S. COAST Guard rescue swimmer Randy Haba didn't know it yet, but he was about to become the first of the first responders.

When Haba fell asleep

on Sunday, Oct. 28, at the Elizabeth, N.C., air station, Hurricane Sandy was still hundreds of miles out to sea. Landfall was still 24 hours away. And the storm wasn't expected to make its savage westward turn until at least Maryland or Delaware.

But then, around 3 a.m. Monday, an alarm sounded on base. A metallic voice crackled over the speaker: there is a

boat off the coast that's taking on water, it said, and there are 16 people on board. The HMS Bounty, a replica 18th- century merchant vessel, had tried, for some reason, to sail around Sandy. The plan had failed. Now the waterlogged Bounty was sinking 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras,

in the teeth of a once-in-a- century superstorm.

"I woke up right away," Haba tells Newsweek. "I knew it was going to be good because ... well, because it was a hurricane." He laughs softly, to himself. "You don't get those very often. Most

people are smart enough to stay away. Smart enough not to go out on the water."

He rushed to the op center, assessed the conditions, and secured the proper equip- ment. Then, in the darkness before dawn, Haba, a pair of pilots, and a flight mechanic piled into an MH-60T heli- copter and took off for the open ocean. They were flying blind, relying on their instru- ments to steer them through the storm.

Their first mission was to find a man who was floating somewhere out in the dark- ness, alone, after falling off one

of the Bounty's two life rafts. They strapped on their night- vision goggles and scanned the horizon. …