El Faro data recorder details crew’s final moments

Posted at 6:51 AM, Aug 25, 2016

Almost 26 hours of audio recordings have been recovered from the doomed El Faro cargo ship’s data recorder, shedding light on the ship’s final moments.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators have been examining the recordings.

El Faro voyage data recorder in fresh water on the USNS Apache

El Faro voyage data recorder in fresh water on the USNS Apache

In the early hours of October 1 last year, El Faro’s 33 crew members found themselves stuck in the Atlantic with a Category 4 hurricane bearing down on them.

The owners of the vessel said the captain had a “sound plan” to avoid Hurricane Joaquin, but the ship’s main propulsion failed, stranding the crew.

The crew, which set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, had devised a plan to avoid Hurricane Joaquin, but the ship’s main propulsion failed out at sea. The ship departed late September 29.

According to a timeline of audio from the ship’s bridge, the crew discussed “loss of propulsion” and flooding at 6:13 a.m. The ship’s captain called back to shore, notifying them of the “vessel’s critical situation,” according to investigators.

By 7:30 a.m., the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship. Ten minutes later, the audio recording ends, with the ship about 39 nautical miles east of Crooked Island, Bahamas, investigators say.

The NTSB released the timeline Wednesday, but not the audio.

The ship’s 28 American crew members and five Polish nationals died.

Courtesy: NTSB

Courtesy: NTSB

Finding the data recorder

The recovery of the data recorder is the latest in a 10-month investigation into the circumstances of the doomed trip.

Almost a month after the ship was lost, the U.S. Navy was able to locate the 800-foot El Faro almost 3 miles below the ocean’s surface.

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 Navy used a special submarine, the CURV 21, and sonar, to positively identify the wreckage, the Navy said.

The data recorder itself wasn’t located until April.

“Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost 3 miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said.

The NTSB recovered the data recorder earlier this month, after investigators deployed a special remotely operated underwater vehicle 15,000 feet to the bottom of the ocean.


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