The United States Coast Guard reported on Monday that the cargo ship which went missing five days ago has in fact sunk, but the search for the 33 people onboard will continue.
It is believed that the immense ocean waves and brutal winds of Hurricane Joaquin caused the container ship, El Faro, to sink off the coast of the Bahamas. Those onboard included 28 Americans.
Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor stated that, “We believe [El Faro] sank in its last known position on Thursday. We are still looking for survivors or any signs of life.” He also reported that aircraft searched 70,000 square miles of ocean on Sunday - the first day that the weather calmed down enough to allow for the search. He noted that rescue craft are focusing on two different debris fields.
Fedor acknowledged that the survival conditions are “challenging” but pointed out that the crew was well-trained at abandoning ship during threatening ocean conditions. “We are not going to discount somebody’s will to survive, and that is why we are still searching today.”
The ship was caught in the middle of Hurricane Joaquin while traveling between Florida and Puerto Rico. The ship’s last communication was recorded Thursday, when the crew reported that the ship had lost power, was taking on water and was listed at 15 degrees. At that point, the hurricane was a Category 4 storm and winds were gusting at an excess of 120 miles per hour, creating 50 foot waves.
The ship’s owner, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, issued a statement thanking all those involved in search and rescue efforts. “We continue to hold out hope for survivors. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the family members and we will continue to do all we can to support them.”
Part of that “support” will likely come as the result of many families bringing lawsuits against the company. Maritime attorney Rod Sullivan believes the El Faro should have been retired years ago. He stated that, “In my opinion, this vessel [which was built in 1975,] had reached beyond its useful life.”
Sullivan predicted that there will be heavy litigation in the near future but points out that the focus now should be on finding survivors. “Hopefully there are still some families that will have their loved ones come back to them. That’s what I am hoping for.”
Indeed, that is what everyone is hoping for.