Sunken Cargo Ship Called Worst U.S. Shipping Disaster in 30 Years
A cargo ship heading to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Fla., sank on Monday, after being caught in hurricane weather. Maritime experts say the accident, which left one person confirmed dead and 32 missing, is the worst U.S. shipping disaster in 30 years.
Business Insider reported that federal safety investigators went to Florida on Oct. 6 to investigate the accident, in which the El Faro, a container ship, was lost at sea after it was hit by Hurricane Joaquin.
Bella Dinh-Zarr, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the team investigating the accident, said that the investigation would be difficult since the ship sank in an unknown location.
"It's a big challenge when there's such a large area of water and at such depth," Dinh-Zarr told Business Insider. "We hope for the best and that the ship will be recovered."
The ship's last location was off Crooked Island in the Bahamas, en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The U.S. Coast Guard, conducting an investigation separate from the NTSB's, has called off the search for the 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish citizens onboard as of sundown on Oct. 7, according to CNN. Coast Guard officials also called off the search for the ship on Monday after it recovered debris.
The El Faro left Jacksonville on Sept. 29, and the crew issued a distress call two days later, claiming that it lost propulsion, had taken on water and was listing—leaning 15 degrees to the side—after sailing into the path of the hurricane in the Bahamas. This was the last time anyone heard from the ship.
Coast Guard officials told Business Insider that the ship was not only stocked with containers, but also was weighed down with trailers and automobiles below the deck. The ship also reportedly underwent engine-room work on Monday, but the head of Tote Services, the owner of the ship, did not think the engine-room work was linked to any propulsion problems that were reported by the ship's captain. Reports say that a hatch on the deck was open, allowing water to flood the ship and tip it to the side.
NTSB will check the ship's maintenance records, and investigators hope to find as much material from the ship as possible in two debris fields found 60 miles apart.