Data recorder from cargo ship El Faro recovered

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The voyage data recorder from El Faro, the U.S. flagged cargo ship that sank in the Atlantic during Hurricane Joaquin in October, was successfully recovered from the ocean floor late Monday evening.

The recovery caps a 10-month effort to retrieve the recorder, which was designed to record navigational data and communications between crew-members on the ship’s bridge. Investigators hope the recorder will reveal information about the final hours of El Faro’s voyage and the circumstances leading up to the sinking.

“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” said NTSB ChairmanChristopher A. Hart, “but it’s just one component of a very complex investigation. There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and the tragic loss of 33 lives.”

The 790-foot El Faro sank Oct. 1 in 15,000 feet of water near the Bahamas after losing propulsion and getting caught in the hurricane while traveling between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico. All 33 crew members died.

Video gained from remotely operated underwater vehicles during the initial search revealed the El Faro’s navigation bridge structure and the deck below it had separated from the hull. The missing bridge structure included the mast and its base to which the voyage data recorder was mounted.

The navigation bridge was found Nov. 11, but searchers were not able to locate the mast or the voyage data recorder.

The NTSB announced Feb. 11 that it would launch a second search mission to locate the data recorder and document the wreckage and debris field.

That effort succeeded in locating the data recorder and completing video- and photo-documentation of the accident site.

Follow Michael Braun on Twitter: @MichaelBraunNP

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