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HMS Bounty: Woman killed on tall ship during Sandy loved adventure


A former USC song girl who died when the ship on which she was sailing went down under super storm Sandy’s fierce winds and waves was a cheerful, talented friend who loved adventure and never seemed to get angry at others, her sorority sister said Tuesday.

Claudene Christian, 42, was one of 16 crew members of the HMS Bounty, a 180-foot, three-masted tall ship used in several Hollywood films, who were caught in the deadly storm. Christian was not in a lifeboat when rescue crews found her unresponsive at 4:30 a.m. Monday, according to Petty Officer 1st Class Brandyn Hill. She was taken by helicopter to a North Carolina hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Fourteen others were plucked from lifeboats and rescued Monday by U.S. Coast Guard rescue crews, who were still searching for the ship’s captain, Robin Walbridge, 63.

Heather McDonald, a Woodland Hills resident and stand-up comedian, said Christian was immediately accepted as a member of the USC Gamma Phi Beta sorority when she rushed as a junior in 1990. “She was always happy for other people’s success,” she said. “I never remember her ever having conflicts with anyone.”

Through social media and occasional get-togethers over the years, McDonald said, she kept up with Christian as she started a cheerleader doll company, performed as a singer for a South Bay music group, Joe’s Band, and launched her latest adventure as a sailor. Although she was engaged about a decade ago, McDonald said, Christian never married and had no children.

McDonald said the sorority sisters were planning a 20-year anniversary reunion for USC’s homecoming game Nov. 10 and had hoped to see Christian there. Now, they may have some a memorial service.

"It’s going to be really sad,” McDonald said.

But, she added: “She really did live her life to the fullest. She had so many careers and did so many incredible things.”

-- Teresa Watanabe

Photo: The Bounty. Credit: Chicago Tribune

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