Debris Found in Search Area for El Faro, Ship and 33 Crew Still Missing

The United States Coast Guard said on Sunday that various objects have been located in the vicinity of the El Faro cargo ship’s last known position 35 nautical miles northeast of Crooked Islands, Bahamas.

“Life jackets, life rings, containers and an oil sheen were located by Coast Guard aircrews within a 225 square nautical mile search area. That debris has not been confirmed to be from the El Faro at this time,” the Coast Guard said.

The El Faro, a 735-foot ro-ro cargo ship owned by TOTE Maritime, carrying 33 crew members onboard was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida when it went missing.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday, watchstanders at the Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center in Portsmouth, Virginia, received an Inmarsat satellite notification stating the El Faro was beset by Hurricane Joaquin, had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list.  The crew reported the ship had previously taken on water, but that all flooding had been contained.

The crew consists of 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals.

“ As of 720am EST on Thursday October 1, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico lost all communication with the El Faro. The US Coast Guard was immediately notified and since then we have been unable to reestablish communication. There are a number of possible reasons for the loss of communications among them the increasing severity of Hurricane Joaquin.

TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico’s primary concern is for the safety and well-being of the 33 individuals on board. We are working to ensure clear and frequent communications with their families and loved ones as we learn more.

We have reached out to the families of those impacted and have established open lines of communication to provide them with timely updates,” Tim Nolan, President of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico said in a statement.

The Coast Guard said that the search and rescue crews continue searching in the Caribbean Sea for the El Faro cargo ship Sunday, covering a total search area of more than 70,000 square nautical miles.

The search includes participation of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy and has seen the deployment of two HC-130 Hercules airplanes and an MH-60 Jayhawk from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida along with two Coast Guard cutters, Northland and Resolute, which stayed on scene and searched through the night.