New digest lays out former Alaska cargo ship’s 2015 sinking
A new federal report provides a graphical overview of how a cargo ship which once sailed to Anchorage sank during an Atlantic Ocean hurricane in 2015, killing all 33 crew members.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s brief 16-page digest on the Oct. 1, 2015 sinking of the El Faro, formerly assigned to a route between Tacoma, Wash. and Anchorage, was released Thursday. In it, investigators lay out how seawater from an open scuttle likely led the ship to take on water through additional flooding as it maneuvered near Hurricane Joaquin.
That flooding, according to the digest, cut off the El Faro’s propulsion leaving the cargo and auto carrier “at the mercy of the storm.” Subsequent graphics lay out the crew’s attempt to abandon ship in open-topped lifeboats phased out by federal law since the El Faro’s construction, before the ship plunged to the ocean floor in 15,000 feet of water – deeper than the wreck of the RMS Titanic, which sank in 12,500 feet of North Atlantic water in 1912.
A Navy salvage vessel ultimately examined the El Faro using a remotely operated vehicle, recovering the ship’s data recorder and providing crucial information for the NTSB report.
Thursday’s digest represents a sea change from the NTSB’s hundreds of pages of formal reports and other documentation on the ship’s sinking. In December, the NTSB attributed the crew’s loss to the captain’s “insufficient action to avoid Hurricane Joaquin” and inadequate utilization of forecasting resources, as well as a late decision to muster crew members.
NTSB spokesman Chris O’Neil said the El Faro digest is the first of its kind, as part of “a new approach we are trying” to cover high-profile incidents.
“The El Faro is an unprecedented investigation and had a lot of complex information within the report,” O’Neil wrote in an email Thursday. “As an agency, we anticipate using this to talk about the investigation and the recommendations stemming from it.”
The NTSB will assess ways to employ similar digests in future incidents, O’Neil said.
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.