NTSB Launches Investigation into El Faro Sinking, Search for Survivors Resumes

The United States National Transportation Safety Board is sending a go-team to Jacksonville, Florida., to begin an investigation into the loss of TOTE Maritime’s cargo ship El Faro, which was last heard from on October 1.

On Monday the U.S. Coast Guard announced that the vessel, which was en route from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, was lost in last week’s storm together with 33 crew members who are feared to be dead as one body had been recovered from the search area on Sunday.

The Coast Guard will also participate in the NTSB’s investigation.

The team will be led by the NTSB’s Tom Roth-Roffy as investigator-in-charge. NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, who is accompanying the team and is serving as the principal spokesperson during the on-scene phase of the investigation, believes that deep seas will likely hamper efforts to find the sunken U.S. cargo ship.

Debris found during El Faro Search
Debris found during El Faro Search

Dinh-Zarr is quoted by Reuters as saying that the investigation is further hampered given the ship’s unknown sinking location  possibly in 15,000-feet (4,750-meter) deep waters.

“It’s a big challenge when there’s such a large area of water and at such depth,” Dinh-Zarr said.

As informed it is crucial to find the wreck and retrieve the vessel’s black box voyage data recorder, in order to be able to find out what happened with the ship and why it strayed into the storm.

“TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico will be fully cooperating with the NTSB and Coast Guard as they conduct their federal investigations. In addition, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico plans to hire an independent third party maritime firm to conduct a safety assessment, which will be made public once completed,” said Tim Nolan, President of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.

The Coast Guard crews continue searching for possible survivors from 32 remaining crew.

Crews have searched a total of 172,257 square nautical miles while searching in the vicinity of the ship’s last known position 35 nautical miles northeast of Crooked Islands, Bahamas.

So far the findings include a heavily damaged life boat, a partially submerged life raft, life jackets, life rings, cargo containers and an oil sheen Sunday.

Three Coast Guard cutters stayed on scene and searched through the night for survivors, covering over 172, 000 square miles.

World Maritime News Staff