Video survey of El Faro wreckage concludes without finding the VDR

Video survey of El Faro wreckage concludes without finding the VDR

The search for the voyage data recorder (VDR) of the sunken El Faro has ended without success, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced on Monday.

Remote video scrutiny of the ship’s wreckage on the ocean floor offshore Bahamas has been going on for two weeks using a CURV-21 deep-sea search vehicle.

The 790-foot El Faro (14,971 dwt, built 1975) Ro-ro cargo vessel and its crew of 33 were lost on October 1 when caught in Hurricane Joaquin while en route from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The suspected wreckage was found at a depth of 15,000 feet on October 31 by a Navy ship using sonar equipment.

Its identity as the El Faro was confirmed by video from the CURV-21 on November 2. Further examination by the CURV-21 revealed that the ship’s bridge and attached deck has separated from the rest of the ship, an indication of the violent forces that had struck it as it sat without propulsive power at the mercy of the hurricane.

Although the NTSB says there will be no further search for the VDR, there are several other ways to determine what caused the sinking. These include: the video images already recorded of the debris; communications between ship owner Tote and the El Faro’s captain; and e-mails between the crew and their families.

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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