Has the Search for El Faro Data Recorder Been Called Off?
According to National Public Radio, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called off its search for the missing data recorder from the wreckage of the El Faro.
The agency said that it used remote operated vehicles with the assistance of the Navy to attempt to find the recorder through the remaining wreckage that has been found of the container ship. The El Faro sank off the coast of the Bahamas on October 1 during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 crewmembers aboard.
Officials were able to locate the vessel’s navigation bridge, and the deck below it became separated from the rest of the ship when it sank, according to NPR. Investigators were hoping to find the data recorder along with the separated wreckage, as it could be used to document readings, position and radio communications made by crewmembers before the ship sank.
At the time of the accident, the ship was traveling in a Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds. The ship’s captain informed officials on the radio that it had a hull breach and it was taking on water.
“While it is disappointing that the voyage data recorder was not located, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to determine the probable cause of this tragedy and the factors that may have contributed to it,” the NTSB said in a statement.
Why Did the El Faro Travel in Bad Weather Conditions?
It is still unknown why the El Faro maintained its voyage during the hurricane. Lawsuits have been filed against the ship’s owners Sea Star Lines, d/b/a, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and Tote Services, Inc., most of which question why the ship continued to sail in bad weather.
A U.S. District Court in Florida has ordered family members of victims of the disaster to file lawsuits by December 21 in order to pursue claims. TOTE has legally responded to lawsuits by requesting to limit the amount of money it would have to pay out to victims through a Petition for Limitation of Liability.
As we have noted in previous blogs, the families who are filing lawsuits are going to have to show that operators had privity or knowledge of the unseaworthy conditions of the vessel when it left for its voyage or privity or knowledge of the negligent conditions on the vessel.
If you have further questions, attorney David Anderson explains how to fight a Petition for Limitation of Liability in the video above, noting how maritime law can be incredibly complex. Continue to follow our blog for more news about the El Faro disaster.