More than six months after the cargo ship El Faro sank off the Bahamas with the loss of all 33 crew, its vessel data recorder (VDR) has finally been located, the US Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Tuesday.

It is hoped the VDR, which holds navigational data and which records sounds and conversations on the bridge, can cast more light on how the 790-foot El Faro – devoid of propulsive power – got caught in Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015, and was sent down 15,000 feet to the ocean floor.

The wreckage, broken into two main sections, was found in early November but a search for the VDR around that time came up empty.

This second attempt to find the VDR began on April 19.

Now a team aboard the research vessel Atlantis has found the mast to which the VDR was mounted and identified the VDR itself. They made the discovery at around 1am on Tuesday about 41 miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas, the NTSB said.

The successful search effort comprised personnel from NTSB, the US Coast Guard (USCG), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute of Massachusetts and the ship’s owner Tote Maritime.

The next step, says NTSB, will be to decide how to recover the VDR.

El Faro was carrying a cargo of cars from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it ran afoul of the hurricane. The 33-person crew comprised 28 American citizens and permanent residents plus five Polish nationals.

An initial set of hearings into the disaster was held by the USCG in Jacksonville in February. A further set will be held at a future date and a place to be named but this discovery of the VDR is sure to play into that.

Author: Donal Scully       Source: