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NTSB launches El Faro VDR recovery mission

Written by Nick Blenkey
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AUGUST 5, 2016 — The third National Transportation Safety Board mission to the wreckage of the El Faro is scheduled to launch today from Virginia Beach, VA.

The mission’s primary objective is to retrieve the voyage data recorder from the TOTE ship, which sank during Hurricane Joaquin Oct. 1, 2015.

The Military Sealift Command’s fleet ocean tug USNS Apache is expected to arrive at the accident site around August 9.

Along with the NTSB, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, and Phoenix International are joining the recovery effort, using CURV-21, a deep ocean remotely operated underwater vehicle to retrieve the VDR and conduct additional wreckage documentation.

“We’re hopeful that the information contained in the voyage data recorder will provide insights into the circumstances of the ship’s sinking,” said Brian Curtis, Acting Director of the NTSB Office of Marine Safety.

In October and November of 2015, the NTSB conducted an initial search mission to locate the vessel and conduct an initial survey of the debris field. The data collected during that mission was used by investigators to plot “high probability” search zones for the second mission in April, which resulted in the location of the mast and VDR.

The wreckage is in approximately 15,000 feet of water, about 41 miles (36 nautical miles) northeast of Crooked Islands, Bahamas.

USNS Apache is expected to arrive at Mayport, Florida, between August 16 and August 20, following completion of the mission.

The cost for this mission is expected to be $500,000, bringing the total for the three missions to approximately $3 million.

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