NTSB recovers data recorder from sunken El Faro


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the US has recovered the voyage data recorder (VDR) from El Faro, a US flagged cargo ship that sank during last year’s Hurricane Joaquin.

Retrieved from nearly 15,000ft under the ocean, where the wreckage of El Faro have been settled down, the VDR has been designed to record navigational data and communications between crewmembers on the ship’s bridge.

The recorder, recovered after a ten month long effort, is expected to provide information on the final hours of El Faro’s journey and the situations leading up to the sinking.

"The VDR will be examined while at sea by NTSB investigators aboard the USNS Apache."

National Transportation Safety Board chairman Christopher Hart said: “The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced.

“But it’s just one component of a very complex investigation.

“There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and the tragic loss of 33 lives.”

After its recovery, the VDR will be examined while at sea by NTSB investigators aboard the USNS Apache, the ocean tug that conducted the recovery operation.

The at-the-sea examination will evaluate the condition of the device and will ensure proper preservation for readout and further examination ashore.

Upon its arrival from the sea, the VDR will be shipped to NTSB's laboratory for auditioning the recording.

The US Navy, Coast Guard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, US’ National Science Foundation and the University of Rhode Island are also involved in the recovery mission.

So far, three such missions have been conducted in ten months after El Faro’s accident.

This was the third mission to the wreckage site of the El Faro and no further missions are planned until further requirements.


Image: El Faro voyage data recorder in fresh water on the USNS Apache. Photo: courtesy of National Transportation Safety Board.