Hurricane Joaquin

NTSB recovers El Faro VDR

AUGUST 9  — The voyage data recorder (VDR) from El Faro, the TOTE cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015, was successfully recovered from the ocean floor late Monday

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VIDEO: NTSB finds El Faro VDR

APRIL 26, 2016 — The National Transportation Safety Board reports that the voyage data recorder from the TOTE ship El Faro was located this morning in 15,000 feet of water, about 41

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NTSB opens El Faro accident docket

JANUARY 4, 2016 — As part of its continuing investigation into the sinking of the U.S.-flagged cargo ship El Faro in the Atlantic Ocean last October, the National Transportation Safety Board has

El Faro search ends without finding VDR

“Over the years we’ve completed many investigations without the aid of recorders and other investigative tools,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “While it is disappointing that the voyage data recorder was not located, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to determine the probable cause of this tragedy and the factors that may have contributed to it.”


The 790-foot U.S.-flag ship operated by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico went missing on Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin and was located on Oct. 31 in about 15,000 feet of water in the vicinity of its last known position near Crooked Island, Bahamas.

In early October, the NTSB contracted with the U.S. Navy to locate the missing ship, document the wreckage and debris field, and if possible, recover the voyage data recorder.

Sonar equipment towed from USNS Apache detected what was believed to be El Faro on Oct. 31. The finding was confirmed on Nov. 1 when investigators were able to view video of the vessel obtained from CURV-21, a remotely operated vehicle capable of deep sea search activity.

Video revealed that the navigation bridge structure and the deck below it had separated from the ship. The missing structure included the mast and its base where the voyage data recorder was mounted.

On Nov. 11, the navigation bridge was found but neither the mast nor the VDR was found in the vicinity of the navigation bridge structure.

After five more days of searching with CURV-21, it was determined that the VDR could not be located. The search and video documentation efforts of El Faro were completed on Nov. 15.

Searchers may have found sunken El Faro

NOVEMBER 1, 2015—The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board reports that a search team on board the U.S. Navy tug USNS Apache has found the wreckage of a ship that they believe to be

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NTSB issues preliminary report on El Faro investigation

Both ships were built at Sun Shipbuilding & Dry Dock in Chester, PA. The El Faro was delivered in 1975 and the El Yunque in 1976

At a final on-scene briefing in Jacksoville, FL, on October 8,  NTSB Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr, stressed that the NTSB investigation is still at the fact gathering stage.

Yesterday, NTSB issued its preliminary report on its investigation.

The agency says the information in the report is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.

Following is the text of the preliminary report:

On Thursday, October 1, 2015, about 07:15 a.m. eastern daylight time, the US Coast Guard received distress alerts from the 737-foot-long roll-on/roll-off cargo ship El Faro. The US-flagged ship, owned by Sea Star Line, LLC, and operated by TOTE Services (TOTE), was 36 nautical miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas, and close to the eye of Hurricane Joaquin. The ship was en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a cargo of containers and vehicles. Just minutes before the distress alerts, the El Faro master had called TOTE’s designated person ashore and reported that the ship was experiencing some flooding. He said the crew had controlled the ingress of water but the ship was listing 15 degrees and had lost propulsion. The Coast Guard and TOTE were unable to reestablish communication with the ship.

Twenty-eight US crewmembers and five Polish workers were on board.

The Coast Guard deployed helicopters and search vessels to the ship’s last known position, but the search was hampered by hurricane-force conditions on scene. On Sunday, October 4, a damaged lifeboat, two damaged liferafts, and a deceased crewmember wearing an immersion suit were found. On Monday, October 5, a debris field and oil slick were found, and the Coast Guard determined that the El Faro was lost and declared the event a major marine casualty. The Coast Guard suspended the unsuccessful search for survivors at sundown on Wednesday, October 7.

On Tuesday, October 6, the National Transportation Safety Board launched a full team to Jacksonville to lead the federal investigation in cooperation with the Coast Guard, the American Bureau of Shipping (the El Faro’s classification society), and TOTE as parties. The US Navy Salvage and Diving division of the Naval Seas Systems Command was contracted to locate the sunken ship, assist in the sea floor documentation of the wreckage, and recover the voyage data recorder.

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Lawsuit alleges negligence by TOTE and El Faro captain

The suit names as defendants TOTE Services Inc. doing business as TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and the captain of the ship, Michael Davison, who is presumed lost along with the rest of those on board the ship.

The suit is being brought under the general maritime law of the United States and Florida’s Wrongful Death Act.

In a press conference staged on the steps of the Duval County Courthouse, Mr. Gary said he would be seeking $100 million in damages. He also said that he represented relatives of other crew members and more lawsuits would follow.

“The ship should never have left dock,” he told reporters. He said that he would seek the ship’s maintenance records and that he had heard it was undergoing mechanical repairs on the day it departed.

Mr. Gary, who calls himself “the giant killer,” is a flamboyant trial attorney who has won sizable damage awards against many major corporations.

Read court filing HERE