The Latest: Crew felt 'eerie calm' crossing El Faro debris

AP News
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Posted: Feb 18, 2016 6:39 PM

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Latest on a U.S. Coast Guard investigative hearing into the sinking of the freighter El Faro (all times local):

6:10 p.m.

The captain of the sister ship to the freighter El Faro that sank last year described an "eerie calm" as his ship travelled through the sunken vessel's debris field.

Capt. Earl Loftfield of the SS El Yunque testified Thursday before a U.S. Coast Guard investigative hearing looking into the 790-foot-long El Faro's sinking. All 33 sailors aboard died.

Loftfield said he was at sea when the El Faro disappeared and that there was a "pull and desire" to see if they could help with rescue operations.

But with a Category 4 hurricane roaring over El Faro's last known position, he determined it was too unsafe.

Later, when the weather improved, Loftfield passed over the site and saw oil bubbling from below. He said his crew kept an eye out for survivors, but ended up sailing on to Puerto Rico without finding anything.

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Noon

Before the freighter El Faro sank, the captain was warned by a text message from his vacationing second mate that a storm looming offshore was forecast to become a hurricane.

Second Mate Charles Baird testified Thursday before a U.S. Coast Guard panel investigating the ship's sinking last October. All 33 aboard died.

Baird said Capt. Michael Davidson replied that he planned to go near but "under," or south, of Hurricane Joaquin.

Baird said Davidson had rerouted to a slower, safer route in August during Hurricane Danny after the ship's owner sent out a safety alert. No company alert was sent out for Joaquin.

Investigators want to know why Davidson chose to sail closer to a hurricane when he chose a more evasive route in previous storms.