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El Faro ‘black box’ recovered from 15K-feet beneath the sea

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Search crews have retrieved the “black box” from the wreckage of the freighter El Faro that sank in 15,000-feet of water near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin last year, officials said Tuesday.

Using a remotely operated vehicle in the pitch black deep sea, crews brought the El Faro’s voyage data recorder to the surface Monday night, the National Transportation Safety Board’s chairman said.

The 790-foot El Faro sank Oct. 1 after losing propulsion and getting caught in the hurricane while traveling between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico. All 33 crew members died.

“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” NTSB Chairman Christophe Hart said in a news release.

Search crews found the recorder in April attached to a piece of the ship, but were unable to remove it.

They returned Monday after leaving port in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and piloted the remotely operated vehicle down to the ship’s resting place to remove the recorder.

The NTSB said in the release that it will begin processing the audio and other data when crews return from sea around Aug. 12.

The recovery comes after two rounds of hearings by a U.S. Coast Guard marine board earlier this year.

The hearings explored the safety record of the ship’s owner, Tote Services Inc., and the decisions made by Capt. Michael Davidson to sail the aging freighter near a strong storm.

Testimony revealed that Davidson knew about Hurricane Joaquin, yet he planned to sail close to it instead of taking a slower, safer path that had been used during past storms.

Hart said the data recorder will help, but it’s just a part of the agency’s ongoing 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,” he said.


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