The El Faro cargo ship sank during Hurricane Joaquin, according to a breaking news report by the United States Coast Guard. A massive search for survivors was initiated after the cargo ship lost contact during the intense storm.
U.S. Coast Guard members have only found debris from the El Faro cargo ship after searching for the vessel and crew 96 hours after they lost contact, CNN reports.
Captain Mark Fedor said that life boats, survival suits, and life rafts found floating in the ocean have been searched for any signs of life. One of the survival suits reportedly contained unidentifiable human remains.
There were 28 Americans aboard the El Faro cargo ship, a 735-foot vessel.
“We are still looking for survivors and any signs of life,” The U.S. Coast Guard captain said during a Monday morning news conference. A 225-square mile area has been searched, with only floating debris found, MSN reports.
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Last week, the cargo ship, which also had five Polish nationals on board, went missing near the Bahamas as Hurricane Joaquin emerged with 130 MPH winds. The El Faro is based out of Jacksonville, Florida, and was headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The U.S. Coast Guard, believing the El Faro sank, said they are now no longer looking for the cargo ship, only survivors. The search and rescue mission began on Friday, but deadly weather conditions hampered the efforts to locate the ship or crew. It was not until Sunday that fair weather conditions emerged and members of the rescue team could search the area more freely and thoroughly.
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Captain Fedor said that search planning efforts are now working based upon the assumption that the El Faro sank at its last known position on Thursday.
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, the company that owns the cargo ship, released a statement reporting that a shipping container which “appears to be from the El Faro,” was recovered. The U.S. Coast Guard has not yet confirmed that any of the floating debris is for the missing cargo ship.
Danielle Randolph was one of the American crew members on board the El Faro cargo ship. Randolph, 34, is from Rockland, Maine.
“She is usually the only female aboard the ship, but even though she is a short little girl she can handle her own well,” Laurie Bobillot, the crew member’s mother, said. Bobillot “When she’s home, she’s all girlie girl. She’s an avid barbie doll collector and loves to dress up retro style, shop, and bake. Ever since an extremely young age, she wanted to work on the ocean.”
When the El Faro left Jacksonville on Tuesday, Joaquin was just a tropical storm. It quickly grew in intensity and was declared a Category 4 storm Thursday as it approached the Bahamas carrying winds of 130 mph.
Anthony Chiarello, TOTE president and CEO, met with the families of El Faro crew members on Friday. During a news conference that same day, he said the number one priority of the company was to see the safe return of all 33 people on board the cargo ship. Chiarello noted that the company was dong “everything humanly possible” to find the lost vessel.
[Images via Twitter]