Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr NTSB

NTSB Refuses El Faro Widow’s Request To Redact Comments

John Konrad
Total Views: 34
December 14, 2016

Vice Chairman T. Bella Dinh-Zarr briefs the media on the NTSB investigation of the El Faro accident. Photo: NTSB

Theresa Davidson, the wife of Captain Michael Davidson, has never spoken publicly about the sinking or her husband’s death aboard the El Faro but she did talk with a team of NTSB and federal investigators on Jan. 5 of this year.

Yesterday the NTSB released the full transcript of the interview despite her written objections. 

Until the Sea Shall Free Them by Robert Frump

Multiple times during the interview with Mrs. Davidson NTSB Investigator, Brian Young, interjected personal comments and, what appears to be jokes. Comments that one admiralty, in an interview with gCaptain, calls “wholly inappropriate, leading and possibly interfering with the facts.”


In a letter written to the NTSB, Gregory F. Linsin – a former member of Mrs. Davidson’s legal team – wrote “Mrs. Davidson’s interview contains a series of opinions, comments, and personal perspectives provided by the investigator… While we do not believe that these statements were made by the investigator for any improper motive, we strongly believe that they do not belong in the official transcript of Mrs. Davidson’s interview.”

Brian Young is a graduate of SUNY Maritime College who,  from 1990-2013, worked his way up to Chief Engineer aboard Fiber Optic Laying and Repair Vessels. Young was promoted to chief investigator of the El Faro incident after the retirement of Tom Roth-Roffy who had served with the NTSB for 18 years. 

Here are a few of the statements made by Young that Mrs. Davidson asked to be removed:

  • Investigator Young: “I’m the guy in the engine room who just gets yelled at by the captain typically. So that’s my function as the engineering.” (Page 4; Lines 18-20).
  • Investigator Young: “I remember when I used to sail I had a, they called it chief engineer at blah, blah, blah. I had my own e-mail address.” (Page 8; Lines 10-13).
  • Investigator Young: “Get those squirrels running down there. You know, that’s typically what happens, you know. As an engineer that’s what I expected to hear.”

In response to our questions as to why the NTSB refused to honor the request, Bill Bennett – Mrs. Davidson’s current attorney – declined to comment but other sources close to the investigation talked with gCaptain off the record.

“I do not see the pertinence of  many of the questions asked of family and friends of the El Faro’s officers. And some questions that were asked, like the personal relationships of the ship’s Second Mate, are wholly inappropriate and potentially damaging to investigation itself and the good name of brave mariners lost at sea.” said one captain with expertise in marine investigations. “But the more troubling question is that of fairness. If questions are asked of the officer’s friends and families why aren’t the same questions asked of friends of Totes managers, surveyors, and others shoreside?”

Experts also question why others are not being interviewed.  “USCG Captain John Mauger questioned the ACP which is in direct conflict with the Marine Electric findings. Who at the USCG and ABS signed off on that program and why are they not on the docket?”

Another source put it more simply. “I care less about the inappropriateness of comments and more about the skimming over of details. Why was Captain Davidson fired from Crowley? Why did Mrs. Davidson never meet her husband’s boss? Why did Tote never provider her with an emergency contact number? The answer is, we don’t know.”

The most succinct comment we heard today was said in reference to  the famously tenacious investigator of the Marine Electric incident; “Mr. Young is competent but we don’t need basic competency, we need someone who can dig, someone who can ask hard questions, investigate elusive answers and build a steady chain of witnesses. What we need is a Domenic Calicchio

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