NTSB sets meeting to determine cause of El Faro sinking

The following is the text of a news release from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB):

(WASHINGTON) — The National Transportation Safety Board plans to meet Dec. 12 in Washington to determine the probable cause of the October 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro in the Atlantic Ocean.

The 790-foot vessel set sail from Jacksonville, Fla., on a voyage to San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 29, 2015, and sank about 34 hours later near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 crewmembers aboard the ship perished in the accident.

The NTSB launched an investigation as soon as the sinking was confirmed and with assistance from the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard, the wreckage and debris field was located Oct. 31, 2015 more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

Investigators focused on recovering a crucial piece of evidence from the wreckage — the  voyage data recorder (VDR), which contained more than 26 hours of audio recorded from El Faro’s navigation bridge. The VDR was not located during the first voyage to find El Faro’s wreckage. The VDR was located during the second mission in April 2016, which was supported by the National Science Foundation. However, the VDR was not recovered until the third mission in August 2016, which was supported by the U.S. Navy. The 500-page VDR transcript was placed in the El Faro accident docket, where it is among more than 16,000 pages of factual reports, interview transcripts and related documents. 

In addition to determining the probable cause of the sinking and any factors that may have contributed to the accident, the board is expected to vote on recommendations to address safety issues uncovered during the investigation. 

The meeting is scheduled to be held in the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L’Enfant Plaza SW, Washington, D.C., beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 12. The board meeting is open to the public and media and will be webcast live at http://ntsb.capitolconnection.org/.

By Professional Mariner Staff