Four days after an American cargo ship vanished in the Atlantic Ocean, the Coast Guard has confirmed that El Faro sank after a mechanical failure left her in the throes of Hurricane Joaquin.
The captain of the ship attempted to chart a path around the storm, but apparently the engines failed, leaving the ship and a crew of 33 vulnerable as the devastating hurricane bore down just off the Eastern seaboard.
Coast Guard crews have recovered one body and are continuing to search for others. Captain Mark Fedor noted that the crew had survival suits that are designed to help in these circumstances, but even in 85-degree waters, hypothermia is a concern, and the conditions in the storm made survival even more difficult. According to WSB Radio:
“These are trained mariners. They know how to abandon ship,” Fedor said. But “those are challenging conditions to survive.”
“We are still looking for survivors or any sign of life,” he said.
The ship had two lifeboats and five life rafts, along with life jackets and rings, but so far, authorities have only recovered one lifeboat and a partially submerged raft, neither of which had anyone aboard. Coast Guard and Navy vessels have searched a 300 square mile area looking for the cargo ship, which was bound for Puerto Rico after originating out of Jacksonville.
Tote Services, the company who owned the ship, last heard from the captain on Thursday morning, as El Faro began to take on water.
Steven Werse, a ship captain unaffiliated with Tote Services or El Faro, described the dangers facing a ship with no engine power in a hurricane like Joaquin:
“The ship really is at the mercy of the sea. You have no means of maneuvering the ship. You would be rolling with the seas,” said Werse.
“Sometimes circumstances overwhelm you. You can do all the planning you want.”
The Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the sinking, according to Captain Fedor.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / 3dmotus