An El Faro transcript released Tuesday described the chaotic final minutes of the doomed cargo vessel as the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship after it lost propulsion in a hurricane and began taking on water.
Hurricane Joaquin was just a tropical storm in late September 2015 when the El Faro left port in Jacksonville, Florida, on its way Puerto Rico, but had turned into a deadly Category 3 hurricane by Oct. 1 as the ship traveled south in the Atlantic Ocean, noted the Miami Herald.
The transcript of recorded conversations, found on the ship's data recorder, were part of 510-page report released by the National Transportation Safety Board.
According to the transcripts, crew members urged the ship's captain, Michael Davidson, to change course, given the growing strength of the storm and its changing path, but Davidson felt the ship could outrun the storm.
Later, about 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 30, third mate Jeremie Riehm informed Davidson from the bridge that the El Faro would be just 22 miles from the center of Hurricane Joaquin in five hours if it stayed on its present course, but Davidson again rejected a route change.
By 6 a.m. the next day, the ship had lost propulsion and Davidson was recorded as saying, "We are in dire straits right now," noted National Public Radio.
At 7:01 a.m. on Oct. 1, Davidson called the ship's owner, TOTE Marine, to inform them about the ship's desperate situation.
"This is a marine emergency. ... We had a hull breach, a scuttle blew open during a storm," Davidson said, per NPR. "We have water down in three hold. We have a heavy list. We've lost the main propulsion unit. The engineers cannot get it going."
The U.S. Coast Guard received an electronic distress call from the ship at 7:17 a.m. Someone screamed that shipping containers fell into the water at 7:29 a.m. as Davidson ordered crew members to abandon ship, noted NPR. The recordings ended at 7:39 a.m. with Davidson still on the bridge of the ship.
The ship's crew of 28 Americans and five Polish nationals died at sea, according to CNN. A search team found the wreckage of the El Faro nearly a month later in about 15,000 feet of water near the vicinity of its last known position near Crooked Island in the Bahamas.
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