NTSB to Determine Probable Cause of El Faro Sinking Next Week

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December 8, 2017

SS El Faro. Photo: Tote Maritim

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is scheduled to meet next week to determine the probable cause of the October 1, 2015, sinking of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship El Faro.

The 790-foot vessel set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, on a voyage to San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 29, 2015, and sank about 34 hours later near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 crewmembers aboard the ship perished 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 October 31, 2015, at a depth of more than 15,000 feet off the Bahamas.

To date, the investigation has cost $5.6 million and amassed 30,500 hours of investigative work, according to the NTSB. As a result, the Board says it has produced more than 70 findings and more than 50 proposed recommendations, which will be presented to the board during the meeting next Tuesday, December 12.

The major safety issues associated with this accident include the Captain’s actions; the currency of weather information; bridge team management; company oversight; damage control plans; and survival craft suitability.

“The sheer volume of information that needs to be reviewed during the board meeting has necessitated minor modifications to the flow of the board meeting. Unlike other board meetings where the managing director reads all the findings and recommendations following investigative staff presentations, during the El Faro board meeting the investigative staff will present their findings and recommendations during their presentations. Probable cause will still be read by the managing director,” the NTSB said in a statement.

The meeting will kick-off at 9 a.m. next Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at the NTSB Boardroom and Conference Center in Washington, D.C. A live webcast of the meeting will be available to the public during the meeting.

In September, the U.S. Coast Guard released the final report from its own investigation into the incident, which included a detailed account of the event along with the Marine Board of Investigation’s conclusions on contributing factors and recommendations. The 199-page report identified causal factors of the loss of the El Faro and proposed a total of 31 safety recommendations and four administrative recommendations for future actions to the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

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