NEWS BRIEF Late Monday evening, more than 10 months after El Faro sank east of the Bahamas, a crew recovered the vessel’s data recorder, which investigators and family members hope will offer some clues into how and why the cargo ship went down.
“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced, but it’s just one component of a very complex investigation,” NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart said in a statement.
El Faro’s early October disappearance was unusual, as I reported at the time: Although big ships run aground and even sink, few simply go down, even when sailing through hurricanes, as El Faro was. A U.S. Navy crew found the ship’s wreckage on October 31, and in January, the National Transportation Safety Board released ghostly images of the ship on the ocean floor, under 15,000 feet of water. But the ship’s data recorder, similar to the black box on airplanes, was not found with the vessel.
Senator Bill Nelson, the Democrat from Florida, the ship’s home, who sits on the Senate committee that oversees the NTSB, urged the agency to do more to recover the recorder. In April, a new expedition found the recorder near the wreckage. “Finding an object about the size of a basketball almost three miles under the surface of the sea is a remarkable achievement,” Hart said at the time. But it took several more months to mount the expedition to actually retrieve it.