U.S. safety board to review final report on 2015 El Faro sinking

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2017 6:12 AM

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. safety officials were due to meet on Tuesday to discuss their final report on the 2015 sinking of the El Faro freighter, which killed all 33 crew members in the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a U.S.-flagged vessel in more than three decades.

A panel of the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington will review more than 70 findings and 50-plus recommendations from a staff investigation into the 790-foot (241-meter) freighter's sinking during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, 2015.

The NTSB said the meeting, which could last several hours, would be broadcast online.

"There are definitely some things that could have changed the outcome," NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said of the long-running investigation into the loss of the ship.

The $5.6 million probe included six weeks of public hearings in Jacksonville, Florida, that concluded this year. The ship disappeared two days after leaving Jacksonville on a run to Puerto Rico.

Its captain had reported losing propulsion and taking on water after sailing at near full speed into the center of the hurricane amid mountainous waves and brutal winds. The wreck site was found on Oct. 31, 2015 more than 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Major safety issues related to the incident were the captain's actions, how up to date the weather information was, management of the bridge crew, damage control, suitability of lifeboats and oversight by the ship's owner, Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, the safety board said in a statement.

A preliminary report submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard found that the El Faro was operating with a minimum margin of stability and would not have met standards for a ship built today. An El Faro data recorder also indicated the captain, Michael Davidson, was uncertain about the storm's location before he gave the order to abandon ship.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Tom Brown)