The sinking of El Faro in the face of Hurricane Joaquin marks the United States biggest maritime disaster since the loss of SS Marine Electric in 1983 in which 31 of the 34 member crew were lost 30 miles off the coast of Virginia. Yesterday, on January 3rd, images and video were released by the NTSB of the ‘El Faro’ wreckage found by the US Navy ROV & Salvage team. The ‘El Faro’ is mostly still in one piece, with the top decks of the bridge missing and sheared off, further testament to the fierceness of the weather she encountered, and she rests in 15,000 feet of water off of the Bahamas. (The Titanic is in 12,000 feet of water, to give some perspective.)
While the families continue to mourn their losses and search for answers as to why this disaster was allowed to happen, the pieces of the tragic puzzle have begun to be put back together, all without insight from the Data Recorder, which to date, has not been recovered as it was located on the top deck which sustained major damage and images show its former location which is devoid of the recorder. The 790-foot ship went down in massive seas, presumably after losing propulsion and rolling over, sinking to the bottom with all 33 lives aboard lost in the tragedy.
It’s a great loss to the US Merchant Marines – 28 of whom were aboard this 790-foot container ship (the others were Polish and were aboard to work on the engines while underway – another bad sign about the condition of the ship). Once again we offer condolences to the families and friends of those lost in the tragedy – many of whom (about half) were only in their 30s. May they rest in peace in their tomb in the warm waters of the Bahamas. And may the lessons and mysteries surrounding this tragic even serve to protect future ships and crew from similar tragedies.