NTSB to Resume Search for El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder

Mike Schuler
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April 17, 2016

Stern of the sunken El Faro. Photo: NTSB

The National Transportation Safety Board is set to resume its search Monday for the voyage data recorder of the sunken El Faro cargo ship.

The U.S. flagged El Faro sank after sailing into Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015 with the loss of all 33 crew.

The goal of the new search is to retrieve the ship’s voyage data recorder and better document the wreckage to help the NTSB in its investigation into why and how the ship sank.

SEE ALSO: Photos and Video of Sunken EL FARO

The search will be conducted in cooperation with the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution using the research vessel Atlantis. The vessel is scheduled to depart Charleston, South Carolina on Monday and search the accident site for 10 days before returning to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, around May 5.

The Atlantis will carry a autonomous underwater vehicle, AUV Sentry, to search for the voyage data recorder. The VDR should contain critical information for NTSB and U.S. Coast Guard investigators. In addition to basic navigational data, the recorder memory is expected to contain voice data from the El Faro’s navigation bridge in the hours before the ship sank in more than 15,000 feet of water. In addition to the information contained in the VDR, investigators will obtain digital high-resolution imagery of the hull and wreckage of the El Faro.

Last November the NTSB worked with the U.S. Navy aboard the USNS Apache to successfully find the El Faro and conduct surveys of the debris field. The first search revealed that the upper two decks, including the navigation bridge, had separated from the El Faro’s hull and were about a half mile away on the ocean floor. The main mast of the El Faro and the attached VDR were not found during the first search.

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