• Emotional former El Faro chief engineer: 'A lot of good people trying to do whatever it took'

    By: Lorena Inclan, Action News Jax

    Updated:

    JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - El Faro’s former chief engineer, Mark Gay, got emotional during Wednesday’s Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing.

    The voyage data recorder transcript took center stage as the board asked him questions in order to get a better understanding of what the crew may have been dealing with.

    Gay was comforted by family members and attorneys during a quick recess to allow him to compose himself after breaking down in tears.

    Board member Commander Mike Odom was asking about a portion of the voyage data recorder that showed 2nd mate Danielle Randolph commenting about the survival suits saying in part, “Usually people don't take the whole umm ... uh ... survival suit-safety meeting thing very seriously,” she said. “I think today would be a good day for the fire and boat drill.”

    Odom asked him to provide context.

    “I never experienced that,” said Gay.


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    Gay, who isn’t employed by TOTE anymore, once worked aboard El Faro and its two sister ships.

    The board wanted to hear his expertise in areas of the transcript where engineering terms were mentioned.

    Based on the VDR transcripts, Gay believes Captain Michael Davidson was referring to the propulsion plant when he said, “I think we just lost the plant.”

    Gay believes El Faro never regained propulsion after that.

    “To me they were doing everything they could to hold on and to do what it took to keep that plant running,” said Gay.

    Gay was hesitant to answer some questions, not wanting to speculate, but he summarized his thoughts in a simple line.

    “You had a lot of good people trying to do whatever it took to get this thing going and getting out of harm’s way,” said Gay.

    According to Gay, despite the old age of the vessels, he considered them to be in good condition. He also said that he never had any problems in getting repairs done on board whenever they were needed.

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