(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has located the voyage data recorder belonging to the El Faro, the cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin, the agency announced Tuesday.
The 790-foot ship and its 33-member crew perished off the coast of the Bahamas after the vessel lost propulsion in the path of what would become a category 4 storm last October. Following a harrowing six day search in difficult weather, rescue workers gave up hope of finding any survivors.
Three months later, investigators discovered the ship’s hull 15,000-feet below the water’s surface, buried in about 30-feet of sediment at the bottom of the Atlantic. They found the navigation bridge, shorn off from the hull, nearly half a mile away – but failed to locate the mast and black box, or VDR.
In a subsequent search, the NTSB says investigators using more sophisticated sonar and remotely-operated vehicles found the mast and identified the VDR, thought to contain vital clues about the ship’s final moments, including audio from 12 hours before the ship sank.
The “next step” will be to “determine how the VDR can be retrieved,” according to the NTSB.
“Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost three miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement.
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