Expert: El Faro crew likely did not launch lifeboats

(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) — An expert testifying Wednesday at a hearing into the El Faro tragedy said that although the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship during Hurricane Joaquin, the stricken vessel's lifeboats likely were never launched, The Florida Times-Union reported.

Tio Devaney of Harding Lifeboat Services told the U.S. Coast Guard's Marine Board of Investigation that the lifeboats, which were not enclosed, were heavily damaged as they were ripped from the ship by the storm. Devaney said he was not aware of a crew surviving a hurricane in a lifeboat or life raft, enclosed or not.

Coast Guard officers previously testified that if the El Faro crewmembers had been able to successfully abandon ship, they likely would have only survived a few minutes at most in the hurricane conditions. Devaney and the Coast Guard captain who oversaw the search and rescue mission testified the enclosed lifeboats, which are launched from the ship instead of lowered, would have given them more of an opportunity, although the situation was dire.

Earlier Wednesday, a Polish worker formerly on El Faro testified that the ship’s officers did not inform the Polish crew about safety measures on board. He said they not told where to go in an emergency, were not shown the lifeboats, and did not know about abandon ship and fire alerts.

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By Professional Mariner Staff