US navy gets ready to probe El Faro wreckage

A US navy salvage team was preparing yesterday to launch a remotely operated submersible to confirm that wreckage discovered near the Bahamas was that of the cargo ship El Faro, lost in a hurricane last month along with its 33 crew members.

US navy gets ready to probe El Faro wreckage

The team is seeking to retrieve the ship’s voyage data recorder, similar to an airplane’s black box, as part of an investigation into what caused it to sink, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said. It was the worst maritime accident involving a US-flag vessel since 1983.

The cargo ship’s owner, Tote, has been hit with four lawsuits filed by relatives of the crew, alleging the ship was not seaworthy and should have changed course to avoid Hurricane Joaquin.

Tote filed for protection in a federal court in Florida on Friday, citing US maritime law and saying the ship was “seaworthy and properly manned” and that Tote bears no responsibility for its loss.

As El Faro left port in Jacksonville, Florida, on its way to Puerto Rico, the captain set the ship on what appeared to be a collision course with the powerful storm, a decision that has baffled shipping experts.

The El Faro disappeared on October 1 after the captain reported losing propulsion and taking on water. The crew included 28 Americans and five Poles.

It was unclear yesterday what plans were in place to recover the bodies of the crew. A week-long search and rescue mission launched by the US Coast Guard after the ship went missing found only one body.

Some relatives of the crew complained not enough was being done to find their loved ones after the coast guard called off its search.

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