The Coast Guard announced today its plans to end its search at sunset for 33 missing crew members from a U.S. cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin.
Coast Guard officials made the announcement at a 3 p.m. news conference Wednesday.
The 790-foot cargo ship sank Thursday off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds that was producing 50-foot waves.
Officials believe the ship’s captain had plans to go around the storm as he headed from Jacksonville, Florida, to Puerto Rico but the El Faro fell victim to unexplained engine failure that left it unable to avoid the storm.
Federal investigators announced they still hope to recover a data recorder from the ship as search crews continue looking for any survivors.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to Jacksonville on Tuesday to begin the agency’s inquiry, which will help get to the bottom of the question of why the captain, crew and owners of El Faro decided to risk sailing in hurricane waters.
Another unanswered question is whether the five workers whose job was to prepare the engine room for a retrofitting had any role in the boat’s loss of power, which set the vessel adrift in the stormy seas. Officials from Tote Inc., the vessel’s owner, do not believe this to be true. However, the answers determined will help investigators figure out why the boat apparently sank near the Bahamas, possibly claiming the lives of all 33 aboard.
The ship is believed to have gone down in 15,000 feet of water after reporting its last known position last Thursday. One unidentified body has been found.
When the El Faro left Jacksonville on Sept. 29, five workers from Poland came along with 28 U.S. crew members to do some preparatory work in the engine room, according to reports. It is not believed that this work would have had anything to do with what affected the propulsion.
The El Faro had no history of engine failure, and company records show it underwent its last annual Coast Guard inspection in March.
The American Bureau of Shipping, a nonprofit organization that sets safety and other standards for ships, did full hull and machinery inspections in February and reported no problems.
The loss of this vessel is undoubtedly a tragedy to all parties involved, including the families of the missing crew. If negligence was a factor in this accident, which resulted in engine failure, this could be grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, or an injury suit if any survivors are located.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed while working aboard a vessel or just as a passenger on board a ship, a Florida Maritime Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help. We understand the complex laws surrounding these cases and how thorough investigations into these matters must be. Call us today at 866-608-5529 to learn more about a potential claim or contact us online. A consultation with us is always free.