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El Faro search ends without data recorder from cargo ship

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Posted at 8:04 AM, Nov 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-17 08:04:01-05

(CNN) — The NTSB said Monday it is ending its search and documentation of El Faro, the cargo ship that sunk October 1 near the Bahamas, likely claiming the lives of all 33 on board.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not locate the ship’s data recorder, a critical part of the investigation into why she ship sank during its fateful run-in with Hurricane Joaquin. A Navy search team was able to locate the ship’s navigation bridge last week.

“While it is disappointing that the voyage data recorder was not located, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to determine the probable cause of this tragedy and the factors that may have contributed to it,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said.

Among the 33 on board, the remains of only one person have so far been recovered. Twenty-eight Americans are among those missing.

The wreckage of the nearly 800-foot container ship was located October 31. It was in 15,000 feet of water near its last known position near Crooked Island. According to the NTSB, it was found in an upright position with the stern buried in about 30 feet of sediment. The bridge and the deck below, however, had separated and were not with the rest of the vessel.

The fact that the bridge separated was a chilling scenario to those in the industry.

“I’m pretty sure it happened very quickly and very violently,” Larry Legere, a ship captain based in Portland, Maine, said of the El Faro’s sinking. “If it was enough to rip the bridge right off that ship, it was a very violent end, and probably why they didn’t recover any survivors.”

The NTSB says it has no additional search missions planned.