NTSB set to release audio transcript from El Faro VDR

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Wednesday it will soon release the transcript of the audio recording from the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) of sunken cargo ship El Faro.

NTSB said the transcript and other factual information only – meaning no analysis or conclusions as to what caused the tragedy – will be released at a press conference on December 13 in Washington DC.

Apart from the bridge audio transcript, information released on that day will pertain to weather and engineering matters, plus other data on the VDR.

This follows months of work by investigators, examining the audio and other data on the VDR to determine the quantity and quality of the content.

The 735-foot El Faro, a US-flagged Tote Maritime-owned vessel, went down off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1 2015, with the loss of all 33 crew members.

It had been transporting a cargo of cars from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico when it was stricken.

Searchers took a month to find the ship, broken into two major sections 15,000 feet down on the ocean floor, a further five months to locate the VDR, the ship’s so-called “black box”, and four more months before the VDR could be pulled from the wreck by a remote-controlled submersible on August 8.

The US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) has held two rounds of hearings already in Jacksonville. A third and final round of hearings is due to be held once the VDR information has been analyzed.

The MBI’s investigation will lead to its own report, independent of the NTSB’s one.


Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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