El Faro cargo ship found in deep ocean

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By Lindsey Stokes
Staff Writer

(Photo from NBC News)

(Photo from NBC News)

The U.S. Navy has confirmed that wreckage found by sonar and later identified by a remote submersible vehicle is the cargo ship El Faro. The wreck site lies approximately three miles below the ocean’s surface.

Over the weekend, search crews using sonar located wreckage that resembled a 790-foot cargo ship in the upright position, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The Navy used a special sub, the CURV 21, to positively identify the wreckage as that of El Faro.

The 40-year-old cargo ship was headed to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida on Oct. 1 when it went missing during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people on board.

The owners of El Faro said the captain had a plan to avoid the Category 4 storm but the ship’s main propulsion system failed, stranding the crew in Joaquin’s path. The 28 Americans and five Polish nationals on board are presumed dead. One body was found by the U.S. Coast Guard during a search of the sea surface in the days after the ship disappeared but it was not recovered or identified.

The search for El Faro’s data recorder, or “black box,” began over a week ago. After three days with no sign from the box’s pinger signal, search crews used sonar to get a picture of the ocean bottom. Another three days passed before the sonar picked up a large object 2.8 miles down near El Faro’s last known coordinates. According to the NTSB, the ship remains intact on the ocean floor.

An NTSB spokesperson in a statement Sunday said taking into account the depth at which the ship rests it will not be recovered, nor will any attempt be made to recover human remains. However, if during the course of the investigation into El Faro’s sinking human remains are encountered, an attempt will be made to recover them.