• Questions may soon be answered for families of El Faro crew members

    By: Katie McKee

    Updated:

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It’s been 30 days since the families of 33 people found out their loved-ones were missing at sea.

    Action News Jax was first to report that search teams identified what appears to be a 790-foot cargo ship in the vicinity of El Faro’s last confirmed location Saturday night.

    A side-scanning sonar system named The Orion, detected the wreckage. The National Transportation Safety Board says it’s in one piece, in an upright position and 15,000 feet underwater.

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

    “They not only found it but they identified that it was sitting upright I thought that was a big step forward in the investigation,” Sullivan said.

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

    The next step, NTSB will send a remote operated vehicle nearly three miles into the water to confirm the wreckage is in fact El Faro.

    Sullivan said the ship is too far underwater for anyone to physically get down there.

    “I think family members need  to understand that since the ship is 15,000 feet deep there's really no way to recover the remains,” Sullivan said.

    Four lawsuits have been filed against Tote Maritime, the company that owns El Faro, and many more are expected.

    Action News Jax first reported on Friday Tote Maritime filed a document in federal court asking for a cap of more than $13 million to be paid to the 33 families if Tote is found to be at fault.

    “If they determine that the ship broke up because it was poorly maintained or because it had been over stressed that certainly creates more liability for Tote than if the ship capsized simply due to captains error,” Sullivan said.

    The NTSB said it could take up to 15 days to recover the voyage data recorder, depending on weather conditions.

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