NTSB Brings El Faro’s VDR to Surface

The voyage data recorder from El Faro was successfully recovered from the ocean floor late Monday evening after 10-month-long effort to retrieve it, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The device, which was designed to record navigational data and communications between crewmembers on the ship’s bridge, is expected to reveal information about the final hours of El Faro’s voyage and the circumstances leading up to the sinking.

“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart, adding that this is “just one component of a very complex investigation.”

“There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and the tragic loss of 33 lives,” Hart said.

Military Sealift Command’s fleet ocean tug USNS Apache departed Virginia on Friday with personnel from the NTSB, the US Coast Guard, the US Navy and Phoenix International aboard. After arriving at the accident location on Monday morning, technicians maneuvered CURV-21, a deep ocean remotely operated underwater vehicle, down about 15,000 feet to the sea floor where the wreckage of El Faro rests.

The voyage data recorder will be examined while at sea by NTSB investigators aboard the USNS Apache, to assess the condition of the device and to ensure proper preservation for readout and further examination ashore, then it will be transported to the NTSB’s laboratory on or about August 12.