In Black Box, Hope for Doomed Ship's Secrets

It should hold El Faro's final communications, GPS data
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 10, 2016 9:05 AM CDT
In Black Box, Hope for Doomed Ship's Secrets
The voyage data recorder from the El Faro freighter, seen aboard the USNS Apache.   (NTSB via AP)

The El Faro's "black box" has been pulled from its resting place, some three miles below the ocean's surface east of the Bahamas, more than 10 months after the vessel sank in a hurricane. The data recorder—which should hold at least 12 hours of recordings of final communications as well as navigational data—failed to turn up during an initial, weeks-long search in January but was finally spotted in April, before a remotely operated vehicle was able to retrieve it on Monday, reports the AP. Officials will begin their study of the device when crews return to the US around Friday and hope it will shed light on the sinking, which killed all 33 crew—28 Americans and five Polish nationals, per CNN—sailing from Florida to Puerto Rico.

The device "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," says the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Testimony during hearings by a Coast Guard marine board earlier this year revealed Capt. Michael Davidson chose to sail close to Hurricane Joaquin rather than take a longer route. The ship's owner, Tote Services Inc., says he was under no pressure to do so. The ship was found upright in October with its bridge detached, suggesting it sank quickly, per the Atlantic. A maritime law professor at Fordham University says the "voices from the grave" on the recorder may show who was at fault. (More El Faro stories.)

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