Coast Guard Searching for Clues Into El Faro’s Loss

Mike Schuler
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February 15, 2016

A close up view of the El Faro’s navigation bridge, which was separated from the vessel as it sank off the Bahamas. Photo credit: NTSB

Investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard are getting ready to kick off the nine days of hearings in the probe into the loss of the American cargo ship El Faro and its 33 crew members during Hurricane Joaquin in October. 

The first session of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearings will focus on the pre-accident historical events relating to the loss, the regulatory compliance record of the El Faro, crewmember duties and qualifications, past operations of the vessel and the Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue operations.

The Coast Guard says that the National Transportation Safety Board, which is conducting its own investigation, will fully participate the hearings. 

The Coast Guard’s investigation seeks to determine as closely as possible any factors that contributed to the accident; whether there is evidence that any act of misconduct, inattention to duty, negligence or willful violation of the law on the part of any licensed or certificated person contributed to the casualty; and whether there is evidence that any Coast Guard personnel or any representative or employee of any other government agency or any other person caused or contributed to the casualty.

The first session of the hearings will take place February 16 – 26 at the Prime F. Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, Florida, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Monday thru Friday. The hearings will also be live streamed online at http://livestream.com/elfaro.

There is a better feed at http://www.actionnewsjax.com/live-stream. Exhibits for the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing as they are made available can be found at http://www.uscgnews.com/go/doctype/4007/286370/.

A second hearing, at a later date to be determined, will examine in detail the accident voyage, including cargo loading, weather conditions and navigation. 

The 40-year-old U.S.-flagged SS El Faro, owned by TOTE Maritime, went missing near the Bahamas on October 1, 2015 after sailing into the eye of Hurricane Joaquin during a routine voyage from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico. In the days that followed, an exhaustive search for survivors turned up empty and the Coast Guard declared the event a major marine casualty. The 790-foot ship was eventually located by a U.S. Navy search crew in about 15,000 feet of water near the Bahamas on October 31.

All 33 crew members, including 28 Americans and 5 Polish contractors, were lost in the sinking. 

RELATED: NTSB’s Preliminary Findings in El Faro Investigation

 

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