Federal investigators and the families of El Faro crew members are in Washington D.C. to learn — for the first time — the results of a two-year probe into the boat’s sinking.
The boat sank on Oct. 1, 2015 during Hurricane Joaquin. The Jacksonvillle-based ship was loaded with cars and other containers. Thirty-three crew members died.
The National Transportation and Safety Board has compiled more than 50 recommendations. Each one is expected to be released this week.
The NTSB said "We have learned many lessons from the sinking of the El Faro. In fact, staff has developed 80 draft findings and 53 draft recommendations."
The most important outcome of Tuesday’s meeting is to make sure this tragedy never happens again. NTSB investigators believe the recommendations they’re proposing will will help achieve that.
For the families of those lost, that is bringing some comfort.
One major focus of Tuesday’s NTSB meeting was Captain Michael Davidson’s actions during the ship’s ill-fated trip. The Coast Guard says they would have pursued a negligence complaint against him had he survived.
NTSB investigator Mike Kucharski said that Davidson didn't take sufficient action to avoid Hurricane Joaquin and that he made a late decision to muster, which put the crew at risk.
The ship's voyage data recorder was salvaged after three trips. The recorder produced the longest transcript ever assembled by the NTSB — detailing 26 hours of audio that covered 500 pages.
"This draft report is more than 400 double-spaced pages, which makes it the longest report I’ve seen in my 11 years at the Board – and the investigative staff made every word count," Robert Sumwalt, chairman of the NTSB, said in the opening statement. "The report clearly captures a detailed series of events in very readable language, which I, for one, appreciated."
— Lorena Inclán (@LorenaANjax) December 12, 2017
At the conclusion of Tuesday's meeting, TOTE released the following statement:
"We fully recognize the enormous investment required of the United States Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the tragic loss of the El Faro. TOTE has fully supported both efforts from the beginning. We are eager to review the Coast Guard and NTSB final reports.
"The investigation was complex. Assessing the large quantity of records and extensive testimony was a daunting task for these investigative teams. We appreciate the time and effort both the Coast Guard and NTSB investigators expended in their efforts. The TOTE organization will carefully study the final Coast Guard and NTSB reports of investigation once they are formally issued. We as a company intend to learn everything possible from this accident and the resulting investigations to prevent anything similar from occurring in the future. We will also assist both investigative bodies in communicating lessons learned from the accident to the broader maritime industry.
"TOTE also remains focused, as we have from the start, on caring for the families of those we lost and working daily ashore and at sea to safeguard the lives of mariners. Safety has always been a central focus of our company and will remain so in the future."
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