U.S. Coast Guard resumes probe into El
Faro ship sinking
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[May 16, 2016]
By Letitia Stein
TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. Coast Guard
investigators are resuming their probe of the deadly sinking of a cargo
ship during a hurricane last fall, with two weeks of hearings to examine
ship operations, weather forecasts and regulatory oversight getting
under way on Monday.
The stern of the El Faro is shown on the ocean floor taken from an
underwater video camera on November 1, 2015. Courtesy National
Transportation Safety Board/Handout via REUTERS
Some two dozen maritime experts are set to testify during a second
round of hearings before the Coast Guard's Marine Board of
Investigation on the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a
U.S.-flagged vessel in more than three decades.
All 33 crew on board died in the sinking of the El Faro off the
Bahamas on Oct. 1 last year. The 790-foot (241-meter) ship went down
in a hurricane while on a cargo run between Florida and Puerto Rico.
During its first meeting in February, the panel heard the final
phone call of the ship's doomed captain, Michael Davidson, a veteran
mariner from Maine, who warned as his vessel took on water that the
"clock was ticking."
Executives with the ship's operator, Tote Services, testified that
the captain was responsible for decisions leading to the disaster.
The Coast Guard panel meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, is looking
for evidence of negligence or misconduct, as well as the cause of
the sinking. Convened only for the most serious disasters, the
investigation board plans a third set of hearings at a yet
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By then, it hopes to have evidence from the ship's voyage data
recorder, which may contain information from the ship's final hours
and communications from its bridge before the sinking. The recorder
has been located in 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) of water off the
Bahamas, but authorities have not yet been able to retrieve it.
Ultimately, the Coast Guard panel expects to issue a report and
could make recommendations on safety standards to prevent a similar
disaster in the future.
(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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