The crew of 33 on the El Faro, the cargo ship that is believed to have gone down in the Caribbean, probably faced Hurricane Joaquin winds as they tried to abandoned ship, officials said Monday.
U.S. Coast Guard continued to search water where a 225-square-mile debris field of wood and cargo was found on Sunday, said NBC News
. Coast guard officials said for now they are concentrating on trying to find "people in the water" and are no longer looking for the ship.
Authorities believe the 790-foot ship loaded with cargo eventually succumbed to Hurricane Joaquin which would have been a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of about 130 miles per hour, noted NBC News.
"If the vessel did sink on Thursday, and that crew was able to abandon ship they would have been abandoning ship in a Category 4 hurricane," Coast Guard Capt. Mike Fedor told a news conference Monday. "Those are challenging conditions to survive."
Fedor said, though, that the Coast Guard would continue to look for survivors because, "We're not going to discount somebody's will to survive."
As the search continues, more questions are being asked about the ship's captain, Michael Davidson, and TOTE Services, the shipping company, said the Miami Herald
"He was going to cross the storm at some point," Capt. Sam Stephenson, who teaches emergency ship handling at Fort Lauderdale's Resolve Maritime Academy, told the Miami Herald. "In my opinion, it makes no sense to do that. When you're a ship, you want to avoid the storm at all costs."
TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico has defended its missing crew, saying that when the El Faro left Jacksonville for San Juan, weather called for a tropical storm before conditions changed quickly, said the Miami Herald.
"Our crew are trained to deal with unfolding weather situations and are best prepared and equipped to respond to emerging situations while at sea," the company stated, noted the Herald. "TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico authorized the sailing knowing that the crew is more than equipped to handle situations such as changing weather."
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