Polish crew member who formerly served on El Faro says they did not participate in safety drills

by: Lorena Inclan, Action News Jax Updated:

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For the first time in three hearings, we’re hearing from a former member of the Polish riding crew who worked aboard El Faro.

Throughout the Marine Board of Investigation hearings, there has been the question of whether the five members of the Polish crew, who were aboard El Faro when it sank, received proper safety briefings.

Wednesday Marek Pupp was questioned by the board via Skype from Poland with the help of an interpreter who was with him. Due to phone quality issues the Coast Guard had to use its own interpreter, who was in the hearing room in Jacksonville. TOTE also had a Polish-speaking attorney who advised in real time in order to ensure accuracy of the record.

Pupp joined El Faro in late August 2015 and got off the vessel on Sept. 29, which is the day the ship left Jacksonville on its final voyage.

There were five Polish workers aboard El Faro in the final voyage. They were Piotr Marek Krause, Marcin Nita, Jan Podgórski, Andrzej Roman Truszkowski and Rafal Andrzej Zdobych.

They were working on converting the ship for the Alaskan trade and doing electrical and welding work.

Through an interpreter, Pupp said they worked in the immediate vicinity of the engine room.

Board member Keith Fawcett asked him, via the Coast Guard interpreter, a series of safety questions.

“When you came aboard El Faro did you receive a safety briefing?” asked Fawcett.

“He can’t remember,” translated interpreter Eva Benavides.

“Did you or any of the Polish crew put on immersion suits?” asked Fawcett.

“No, he doesn’t remember anything like this happened,” said Benavides.

Pupp also said he never put on life jackets and didn’t participate in the drills because “they did not apply” to them. Instead, he said, the crew would keep working.

Pupp said he was shown around the vessel by crew member Jeffrey Mathias, who was also on the final voyage, so they wouldn’t get lost while walking around the ship.

According to what has come up in the testimony thus far, at least one member of the Polish riding crew in the final voyage spoke English.