U.S. Coast Guard hearings into sinking of El Faro begin

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. Coast Guard began public hearings Tuesday into the sinking of El Faro.

The cargo ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas in October. The 33 crew members on board are presumed dead.

Jason Itkin of Arnold and Itkin LLP, a lawyer representing three of the El Faro families, said a Marine Board Hearing is a relatively rare event.

That fact that we are seeing this hearing speaks to the severity and preventability of the El Faro tragedy. We're just not supposed to see maritime tragedies like this in this day and age.  While we hope to get some answers during the hearing, we don't expect we'll get resolution for the families we represent; that will be a fight for a later date," said Itkin.

The last Coast Guard investigation of this magnitude was after the Gulf oil rig explosion six years ago.

The Coast Guard will hear testimony from nearly everyone connected to El Faro during the hearings including experts, former crew members, family members of the crew and TOTE Maritime officials.

The hearings are expected to last 10 days. The Coast Guard hopes they will help determine the cause of the sinking, determine if there was human error, misconduct or negligence.

The National Transportation Safety Board plans to search for the voyage data recorder again in April.  If it’s found, the Coast Guard may choose to question people again.