Search For US Cargo Ship El Faro Found Debris? Coast Guard Uncertain About Missing Ship's Survivors

The search for the U.S. cargo ship El Faro found what appears to be a hint at the fate of the missing ship lost during Hurricane Joaquin. The U.S. Coast Guard says a debris field may have been found, but they also admit that it is still too early to be certain that no one survived.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, Hurricane Joaquin's death toll in the United States has already reached five people based upon the heavy rain and flooding that has hit the eastern coast of the United States.

The U.S. cargo ship El Faro departed from Jacksonville, Florida, this past Thursday when Hurricane Joaquin did not seem as much as a threat. The El Faro was heading to Puerto Rico on its normal supply run when the tropical storm turned into a hurricane, battering the ship with 30-foot waves and winds up to 130 miles per hour.

Phil Greene, president and CEO of TOTE Services, Inc., has defended the company's decision to send the missing ship into the storm. They claim that crew members were "equipped to handle situations such as changing weather," the U.S. cargo ship was equipped with state-of-the-art lifeboats, and the ship was designed to work in the rough seas near Alaska.

In addition, El Faro's captain believed that Hurricane Joaquin would not be a problem for their voyage.

"On Wednesday he sent a message to the home office with the status of the developing tropical storm he said he had very good weather... and that his crew was prepared," Greene said, according to the Associated Press. "She is a sturdy, rugged vessel that was well maintained and that the crew members were proud of."

Danielle Randolph is one of the 28 crew members from the United States and five from Poland. According to the Washington Post, her mother, Laurie Bobillot, says that her daughter's last words were not so certain about the weather.

"Not sure if you've been following the weather at all," wrote her daughter on Thursday from the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. "Winds are super bad and seas are not great."

Just hours after this email was sent, the U.S. cargo ship El Faro began to take on water, tilted to one side, and then lost power. Then the ship's communications abruptly went dead. They have not been heard from since.

The search for the U.S. cargo ship has found some items scattered across the 70,000 square nautical miles searched so far by the U.S. Coast Guard. They have spotted a life ring, a debris field, and even an oil slick near El Faro's last known location.

Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash said that people should not jump to any conclusions about potential survivors based upon the information released so far.

"We still don't have communication with the ship and we don't even know if the debris field is from the ship," said Nash, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.

According to NBC News, Barry Young, whose nephew Shaun Riviera is a crew member, says that hope should not be lost since the search for the U.S. cargo ship has to check an area which is about the size of Michigan.

"But even with a ship this big it's like finding a needle in a haystack," he said.

The waiting game has been very hard on the families of the El Faro's missing crew members, although Bobillot says she knew that life at sea was always a risk.

"She always said to me, 'If anything happens to me, Mom, when I'm out at sea, it's OK. I died doing what I want to do,'" Bobillot said.

[Update] In a Monday morning conference, the U.S. Coast Guard officially announced that the El Faro sank due to the hurricane.

[Photo via TOTE Maritime]