In the Wake of Tragedy: Updates on Missing Ship El Faro

Following the heartbreaking tragedy of the El Faro’s October loss, pieces of the puzzle are slowly moving into place: the NTSB releases a Preliminary Report on the investigation; Navy salvage and diving teams are tasked to search for the missing vessel; the owners of the container ship establish a relief fund for the grieving families of lost crew; and lawsuits – one to the tune of $100 million – are filed against those who may be held accountable.

Earlier this October, cargo ship El Faro was believed to have been caught in the clutches of the devastating Hurricane Joaquin, an encounter that would ultimately lead to its loss. The 790-foot, roll-on, roll-off container ship was in the middle of an otherwise regular run between Florida and Puerto Rico when they issued a distress call, detailing lost propulsion, flooding and listing. It would be the ship’s final communication.

A week-long search yielded some debris and the body of just one person presumed to be a crew member, out of 28 Americans and 5 Polish contractors the vessel had on board at the time of the incident. The disaster has since been deemed the worst to occur in 30 years, for US-flagged cargo shipping vessels.

TOTE Services, operators of the El Faro, recently announced the establishment of a family relief fund for the loved ones of those lost in the tragedy. Intentions to create an education fund especially for the children of the vessel’s lost crew members was also announced.

The National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) has released a preliminary report on the sinking, including details on the accident and distress calls received, the Coast Guard response, investigative efforts of the NTSB, and the contracting of salvage and diving teams from the US Navy in locating and documenting the wreckage, and recovering the ship’s voyage data recorder.

Multiple lawsuits against the owners and operators of the lost ship have already been filed by grieving family members. According to one suit, the ship was maintained poorly and was sent out into hurricane conditions negligently. Another suit is seeking $100 million for wrongful death.

We at Kemplon Engineering are one with the maritime community in sending condolences to the families, and in hoping that appropriate measures are taken to give them the justice they need, and so that similar incidents do not have to happen to other seafarers in the future.

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^ “NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on El Faro Sinking, Navy Contracted to Search for Wreck.” gCaptain, 15 Oct 2015. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

^ Pantazi, Andrew. “Family of El Faro’s third mate files second lawsuit.”, 19 Oct 2015. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

^ “U.S. shipowner creates fund for families of missing El Faro crew.”, 09 Oct 2015. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

^ Image “News And Magnifying Glass” courtesy of bluebay at