The black box from the El Faro, located Tuesday more than seven months after the cargo ship sank off the Bahamas in the midst of a powerful hurricane, killing a crew of 33, will remain where it is for the time being.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators said Wednesday they will need special deep-sea salvage equipment to retrieve the data voyage recorder, which is attached to a steel beam extending from the ship’s mast. They expect to be able to return to the site with the proper equipment in the next few months.
Extracting a recorder capsule attached to a four-ton mast under 15,000 feet of water presents formidable challenges.
Brian Curtis, acting director of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety
“Extracting a recorder capsule attached to a four-ton mast under 15,000 feet of water presents formidable challenges,” Brian Curtis, acting director of the NTSB’s Office of Marine Safety, said in a statement. “But we’re going to do everything that is technically feasible to get that recorder into our lab.”
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The contents of the black box, which contains navigational data, as well as any recordings of the crew’s final conversations aboard the bridge, would clearly be of high interest during a second round of Coast Guard hearings investigating the sinking. The hearings will be held in Jacksonville from May 16-27.
The 790-foot El Faro sank last October as it sailed powerless, listing at a 15-degree angle, into Hurricane Joaquin. Questions over why the captain, Michael Davidson, failed to take a safer course away from the intense storm remain unanswered.
Just a month before, Davidson took the safer, longer course after being warned about Hurricane Erika.
Investigators aboard the research vessel Atlantis plan to continue photographing the hull and debris field until April 30. They are using a high-tech, remote-operated vehicle to scan the ocean floor 15,000 deep, where the hull was found sitting upright in November, missing the bridge. The bridge was later found about a mile away.