A former captain of El Faro on Tuesday said he had had concerns about the cargo vessel’s boiler, its stability and the water-tight integrity of its cargo doors.
Jack Hearn was addressing the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) Marine Board of Investigation on the second day of its latest hearing into the tragic loss of the El Faro and all its 33 crew members on October 1 last year.
The 790-foot ship with a cargo of cars had been en route from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin, lost propulsive power and went down off the Bahamas.
Hearn also said he was fired by the ship’s owners Tote after he raised safety concerns while captaining a sister ship the El Morro.
But a lawyer for the widow of El Faro’s last captain Michael Davidson told the board hearing in Jacksonville that Hearn was actually let go because some El Morro crew used that ship to smuggle cocaine.
The panel also heard from a hurricane expert that forecasts contained large errors about the intensity, direction and location of what became Hurricane Joaquin.
James Franklin, branch chief of the National Hurricane Center’s hurricane specialist unit, testified that initial forecasts said the storm would be weak, would head north and north west and would dissipate. In fact, the hurricane moved south and southwest and grew in strength.
The hearing continues and is expected to last two weeks.