Sunken El Faro investigation reveals captain sent email seeking change in direction of sail
A recent review of Tote Maritime's cargo ship El Faro's last fatal voyage has revealed that the captain aboard the ship, Michael Davidson, had in an email to Tote officials sought a change in route in order to veer the ship off the course of hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas.
The 790ft ship had sunk, killing 33 crew members on board, during Hurricane Joaquin on 1 October in the Bahamas after departing from Jacksonville, Florida.
Following the revelation, a seven-member panel was formed including the National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who summoned Tote Services vice-president of marine operations Philip Morrell to testify on the email.
Morrell stated that it was a courtesy mail and that the end-to-end responsibility of the ship during its voyage lies on the captain who has the ultimate authority to take decisions on the vessel.
The investigators had also questioned the company for utilising the ship even after four decades of service.
The freighter was scheduled to get its engine boilers serviced in November.
Murray stated that this was a routine maintenance.
The reason behind the ship losing power before sinking is still unknown.
NTSB's initial investigation has also revealed that the captain had communicated about a breach in the ship's hull and the main propulsion failure. Additionally, the US Coast Guard had reported receiving electronic distress alerts from three sources aboard the El Faro before it sunk.
The families of 10 sailors who died in the tragedy accepted a settlement of $500,000 each, while families of the remaining victims have filed complaints with Tote Maritime.
The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced a second search mission to locate the voyage data recorder (VDR) of El Faro.
Image: Satellite image depicting El Faro's position during hurricane Joaquin. Photo: courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; provided via the United States Navy.