June 29, 2017
Search Continues For El Faro Survivors Of Hurricane Joaquin, Human Remains Found

The search continues northeast of the Bahamas for the 33 crew members of El Faro, and human remains have been found in a survival suit floating among debris. The container ship from Jacksonville, Florida, headed for Puerto Rico, is believed to have been sunk by the category 4 Hurricane Joaquin. This determination has narrowed search priorities down to a hunt for survivors.

Aside from the body discovered on Monday, a damaged lifeboat with El Faro markings was also spotted among pieces of wood and styrofoam, and empty life rafts. The onset of favorable conditions on Sunday aided the searchers in locating a container believed to be from the missing ship, among assorted items in a 225-square-mile debris field. On Saturday, a life ring with El Faro markings was recovered in an area northeast of the Bahamian islands.

According to NPR News, U.S. Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor told the press that the search has shifted from finding the vessel to rescuing passengers who may still be alive. With indicators showing the crew abandoned ship as it sank in the hurricane, Fedor made the following statement.

"We are still looking for survivors or any signs of life. The search for survivors continues."
The search continues as news media collate what has transpired thus far.

On September 29, 2015, a Tuesday, container ship El Faro left Jacksonville, Florida, bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico. On September 30, Wednesday, El Faro was about 215 miles northeast of the Bahamian islands, going southwest at 6 miles per hour. On October 1, Thursday at 7:20 a.m., ship owner T.O.T.E. Maritime Puerto Rico received a distress signal from El Faro indicating the ship had lost electricity, was taking on water, and was listing 15 degrees, though the situation was still "manageable," followed by radio silence. On October 2, Friday, no trace of El Faro could be found by the U.S. Coast Guard. On October 3, Saturday, a life ring from the El Faro was picked up by searchers some 120 miles northeast of Crooked Island. On October 4, Sunday, the Coast Guard discovered a container from El Faro in a 225-square-mile debris field on a sheen of oil. On October 5, Monday, searchers retrieved an unidentifiable human body in a survival suit and a damaged life boat.

According to U.S. News, 790-foot container ship El Faro, embarked on its four-day journey with its cargo of cars and other merchandise destined for Puerto Rico, into a tropical storm with 40 miles-per-hour winds. Within 24 hours, the storm escalated to a hurricane.

By Thursday, Hurricane Joaquin reached Category 3, with 120 miles-per-hour winds, and El Faro sent out a distress signal about taking on water from a 15-degree list, and losing propulsion in the vicinity of Crooked Island in the southeastern Bahamas. The eye of the hurricane was 10 miles north of Samana Cay in the southern Bahamas.

With communication from the container ship dead, the U.S. Coast Guard sent out a search and rescue mission on Friday. Dispatched were the cutter Northland, an MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter crew based in Great Inagua, Bahamas and HC-130 Hercules airplanes from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Florida.

By Saturday, a life ring was found, and the Coast Guard determined the ship's last known position at about 35 miles northeast of Crooked Island. El Faro owner T.O.T.E. Maritime Puerto Rico also hired U.S. Navy and Air Force planes and vessels to beef up the search.

By Sunday, the searchers came upon a cargo container in the debris field and by Monday, recovered the empty life boat and unidentified body.

Meanwhile, as the search continues, 80 percent of homes on Crooked Island have reportedly been destroyed, with island communication facilities down. Similarly the surrounding Bahamian islands are also believed to be without power or communication.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Newsroom, 30,000 square miles have been covered as the search continues.

[Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]