NTSB Investigators to Determine Cause of ‘El Faro’ Sinking in December

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September 12, 2017

The El Faro is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Tote Maritime in Jacksonville, Florida, October 2, 2015. Photo: Tote Maritime

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet in December to determine the probable cause of the October 2015 sinking of the American cargo ship El Faro in the Atlantic Ocean.

The 790-foot vessel set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, on a voyage to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 29, 2015, and sank about 34 hours later near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin.  All 33 crew members aboard the ship were lost in the accident.

The NTSB launched an investigation as soon as the sinking was confirmed and with assistance from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, the wreckage and debris field was located Oct. 31, 2015, more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

During the investigation, officials focused on recovering a crucial piece of evidence from the wreckage – the  voyage data recorder (VDR), which contained more than 26 hours of audio recorded from the El Faro’s navigation bridge.

The VDR was located during the second NTSB-led mission to located the data recorder in April 2016. However, the VDR was not recovered until the third mission in August 2016, which was supported by the U.S. Navy.

The 500-page VDR transcript was placed in the El Faro accident docket, where it is among more than 16,000 pages of factual reports, interview transcripts and related documents. 

In addition to determining the probable cause of the sinking and any factors that may have contributed to the accident, the Board is expected to vote on recommendations to address safety issues uncovered during the investigation. 

The meeting is scheduled to be held in the NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C. on December 12, 2017.

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