NTSB: Wreckage believed to be El Faro found by search teams

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

The National Transportation Safety Board says a search team has located what they believe to be the wreckage of the cargo ship El Faro. 

A search team on board a USNS Apache says they located the wreckage, believed to be El Faro, in more than 15,000 feet of water using sonar equipment towed from Apache. The wreckage found is located in the vicinity of El Faro's last known position. 

Images of the vessel were captured using a side-scanning sonar system called Orion.

The target identified by Orion is consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship. Sonar images taken by search teams appear to show a ship of that size in an upright position and in one piece. 


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In order to confirm the search team’s findings, specialists will use CURV-21, a deep ocean remote operated vehicle, to confirm the identity is El Faro, which went missing on Oct. 1.

Rod Sullivan, a maritime attorney, said the position of the ship is a major factor in determining what happened to it.

"That will give the NTSB a better idea of exactly what happened to the ship, and what caused it to sink in the first place," Sullivan said.

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If the vessel found is confirmed to be El Faro, CURV-21 will start documenting the vessel and the debris field and attempt to locate and recover the voyage data recorder. 

Sullivan said if the ship turned over, a lot of the evidence would be destroyed, and the voyage data recorder could have been crushed.

CURV-21 will descend nearly three miles deep into the ocean to confirm the wreckage found is in fact El Faro. The NTSB said that procedure could take up to 15 days or longer to complete, depending on weather conditions.

The NTSB press release can be read in its entirety by following this link.