Federal investigation after Jacksonville cargo ship disappears

As of this posting, the El Faro container ship has been missing for six days; it vanished from radar near the Bahamas.

Federal safety investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are in Florida to investigate the effects of Hurricane Joaquin. The Coast Guard believes the storm’s conditions were too much to bear, causing the ship to sink.

After rescue crews found a body, 32 crew members are believed to be missing and one confirmed dead.

Capt. Mark Fedor explained the body was “unidentifiable” after its retrieval from the ocean.

The ship’s owner, Tote Inc., explained maintenance was being done on the engine room before it went down.

In a press conference Tuesday, the NTSB admits the investigation will be difficult. The ship sank in an unknown location after reporting activity in Crooked Island off the Bahamas.

“It’s a big challenge when there’s such a large area of water and at such depth,” NTSB member Dinh-Zarr told reporters, “We hope for the best and that the ship will be recovered.”

Her agency will dig back through a variety of maintenance records and related paperwork to figure out what may have gone wrong.

The primary search efforts are occurring at two large debris fields, where Coast Guard crews previously found several items from El Faro.

The mother of one crew member told the Associated Press that the ship had sent out a distress call before reporting its final location.

“The last communication I had with her was in an email from the ship,” Laurie Bobilleot told the AP, “it said, ‘Not sure if you have been following the weather at all, but there is a hurricane out here and we are heading straight into it; category three, winds are super bad and seas are not great. Love to everyone.'”

It’s still unclear why the vessel was travelling through the then category 4 hurricane.


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