NTSB News Release: Jan. 3, 2016

NTSB Opens Public Docket on Investigation Into Cargo Ship Sinking; Underwater Images and Video Released

WASHINGTON – As part of its continuing investigation into the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro in the Atlantic Ocean in October, the National Transportation Safety Board has opened the accident docket and released underwater images and video of the vessel.

The US flagged ship, owned by Sea Star Line, LLC, and operated by TOTE Services, went missing on Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin and was located on Oct. 31 in about 15,000 feet of water in the vicinity of its last known position near Crooked Island, Bahamas. Twenty-eight US crewmembers and five Polish workers were on board.

The images on the El Faro investigation that the NTSB has released, including the nine underwater photos published in the accident docket today, are available athttps://www.flickr.com/photos/ntsb/sets/72157659149033059.

More than 47 minutes of video from CURV-21, the remotely operated vehicle used to document the wreckage and debris field, is included in the docket. Excerpts from that video are available on the NTSB’s YouTube channel:https://youtu.be/q3h8HbloK0o

The El Faro docket is available at http://go.usa.gov/c5vYV.

Additional information and resources are available on the NTSB’s webpage for the El Faro accident investigation:http://go.usa.gov/3Smre.

Contact: NTSB Public Affairs
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594
Peter Knudson
(202) 314-6100
peter.knudson@ntsb.gov

###

NTSB News Release: 11-16-15

NTSB Completes Documentation of Sunken Cargo Ship El Faro; Voyage Data Recorder Not Located

November 16, 2015

WASHINGTON – The video documentation of the cargo ship El Faro and the associated debris field has been completed but the vessel’s voyage data recorder was not located.

“Over the years we’ve completed many investigations without the aid of recorders and other investigative tools,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “While it is disappointing that the voyage data recorder was not located, we are hopeful that we’ll be able to determine the probable cause of this tragedy and the factors that may have contributed to it.”

The 790-foot ship went missing on Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin and was located on Oct. 31 in about 15,000 feet of water in the vicinity of its last known position near Crooked Island, Bahamas.

In early October, the NTSB contracted with the U.S. Navy to locate the missing ship, document the wreckage and debris field, and if possible, recover the voyage data recorder.

Sonar equipment towed from USNS Apache detected what was believed to be El Faro on Oct. 31. The finding was confirmed on Nov. 1 when investigators were able to view video of the vessel obtained from CURV-21, a remotely operated vehicle capable of deep sea search activity.

Video revealed that the navigation bridge structure and the deck below it had separated from the ship. The missing structure included the mast and its base where the voyage data recorder was mounted.

On Nov. 11, the navigation bridge was found but neither the mast nor the VDR was found in the vicinity of the navigation bridge structure.

After five more days of searching with CURV-21, it was determined that the VDR could not be located. The search and video documentation efforts of El Faro were completed on Nov. 15. No further search missions are planned.

Additional information and resources are available on the NTSB’s webpage for the El Faro accident investigation: http://go.usa.gov/3Smre

NTSB Status Update: 11-3-15

The National Transportation Safety Board has contracted with the U.S. Navy to locate the El Faro, document the wreckage and debris field and recover the voyage data recorder (VDR). Below is an update of recent activities.

  • The Curve 21 remote operated vehicle (ROV) was used to confirm that the vessel found was the El Faro.
  • The ROV documented both the port and starboard sides of the vessel.
  • The vessel is oriented in an upright position with the stern buried in approximately 30 feet of sediment.
  • The navigation bridge and the deck below have separated from the vessel and have not been located.
  • The voyage data recorder has not been located.
  • The team has reviewed sonar scans of the nearby debris field and has not identified any targets that have a high probability of being the missing navigation bridge structure.
  • Future plans are to redeploy the Orion side scan sonar system to generate a map of the debris field to locate the navigation bridge structure.

Full investigation information: http://ntsb.gov/investigations/Pages/2015_elfaro_jax.aspx

NTSB News Release: 10-31-15

Wreckage of Cargo Ship Believed to be El Faro Located in More Than 15,000 Feet of Water

10-31-15, posted to the NTSB investigation site at 9pm EST

​ A search team on board the USNS Apache has found the wreckage of a vessel that they believe to be the cargo ship El Faro, which went missing on Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin. The vessel was located at a depth of about 15,000 feet in the vicinity of the last known position.

Sophisticated sonar equipment towed from Apache first detected what are believed to be images of the vessel using Orion, a side-scanning sonar system, at about 1:36 pm ET on October 31 during the fifth of 13 planned search line surveys.

To confirm the finding, specialists on Apache will use CURV 21, a deep ocean remotely operated vehicle, to survey and confirm the identity of the wreckage. This survey could begin as early as Sunday, November 1.

The target identified by Orion is consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship, which from sonar images appears to be in an upright position and in one piece.

Shortly after the National Transportation Safety Board opened its investigation into the accident, it contracted with the U.S. Navy to locate the missing ship, document the wreckage and debris field, and if possible, recover the voyage data recorder.

Apache departed Little Creek, Va., on Oct. 19 after being fitted with a suite of state-of-the-art underwater detection equipment. On Oct 23, after arriving at the last known position of El Faro, specialists on Apache placed a towed pinger locator (TPL) into the water and began slowly traversing the area according to a preset search pattern in hopes of picking up sounds of the pinger from El Faro’s voyage data recorder.

After three days without any indication of a pinger signal, the TPL was withdrawn from the ocean and Orion was put in the water in an attempt to locate El Faro with sonar technology, which creates sonar images from the processing of sound patterns.

If the vessel is confirmed to be El Faro, CURVE-21, outfitted with a video camera will start the documentation of the vessel and the debris field and attempt to locate and recover the voyage data recorder. Those operations are expected to take up to 15 days to complete in ideal conditions but could take longer depending on weather and conditions encountered during the documentation process.

Additional investigative updates will be issued as circumstances warrant.

More information and resources are available on the NTSB’s webpage for the El Faro accident investigation: http://go.usa.gov/3Smre

Additional information regarding the equipment used by the US Navy is available on their website.

Orion: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4300&ct=4&tid=197
CURVE 21: http://www.navy.mil/navydata/fact_display.asp?cid=4300&tid=50&ct=4

Contact: NTSB Public Affairs
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW
Washington, DC 20594
Peter Knudson
(202) 314-6100
peter.knudson@ntsb.gov