After months of trying, searchers have finally retrieved the missing black box from the El Faro cargo ship that sank during Hurricane Joaquin last year.
The voyage data recorder, which contains information from the ship’s bridge including taped conversations, could provide valuable clues about why the ship sank in the storm off Crooked Island, Bahamas, killing a crew of 33, and why the captain maintained a course that headed into the massive storm.
“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement. “But it’s just one component of a very complex investigation. There is still a great deal of work to be done in order to understand how the many factors converged that led to the sinking and the tragic loss of 33 lives.”
The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced.
National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Christopher Hart
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Searchers located the black box attached to the mast of the El Faro wreck 15,000 feet deep in April, but were unable to pull it up. On Monday, using a CURV-21 unmanned remote-controlled vehicle, they were able to finally grab it and bring it aboard the USNS Apache by 10:30 p.m., according to the statement.
Investigators aboard the Apache will now assess the condition of the box and take steps to preserve any data. They hope to have it back at the NTSB’s Washington lab by Friday. The recorder is designed to hold 12 hours’ worth of information, but it may contain additional information, officials said.
The 790-foot El Faro sank last October as it sailed powerless and listing at a 15-degree angle into 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 on Tuesday also plan to continue taking photographs and video of the wreckage.
Follow Jenny Staletovich on Twitter @jenstaletovich