NTSB: New Mission Set to Recover El Faro’s VDR
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will attempt to retrieve the voyage data recorder (VDR) belonging to the ill-fated cargo ship El Faro as it prepares to launch the third mission to the wreckage today from Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The Military Sealift Command’s fleet ocean tug USNS Apache is expected to arrive at the accident site around August 9.
Along with the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and Phoenix International are joining the recovery effort, using CURV-21, a deep ocean remotely operated underwater vehicle to retrieve the VDR and conduct additional wreckage documentation.
“We’re hopeful that the information contained in the voyage data recorder will provide insights into the circumstances of the ship’s sinking,” said Brian Curtis, Acting Director of the NTSB Office of Marine Safety.
El Faro’s VDR was located in 15,000 feet of water, about 36 nautical miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas, in April.
The U.S.-flagged cargo ship sank on October 1, 2015, during Hurricane Joaquin while sailing from Florida to Puerto Rico, taking all 33 crewmembers with it.
In October and November of 2015, the NTSB conducted an initial search mission to locate the vessel and conduct an initial survey of the debris field. The data collected during that mission was used by investigators to plot “high probability” search zones for the second mission in April, which resulted in the location of the mast and VDR.
NTSB said that the cost for this mission is expected to be USD 500,000, bringing the total for the three missions to some USD 3 million.