The United States Coast Guard said it will suspend the search for possible survivors from the cargo ship El Faro at sunset Wednesday, which is believed to have sunk during Hurricane Joaquin.
Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Air National Guard and tugboat crews searched more than 183,000 square nautical miles off the Bahamian coast in a joint effort to locate the El Faro crew.
“I have come to a very difficult decision to suspend the search for the crew of the El Faro at sunset tonight. My deepest condolences go to the families, loved ones, and friends of the El Faro crew,” said Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander, Coast Guard 7th District.
“U.S. Coast Guard, U.S Navy, U.S. Air Force, and the Tote Maritime tug crews searched day and night, sometimes in perilous conditions with the hope of finding survivors in this tragic loss.”
“Since Thursday, every individual in the TOTE organization has held out hope that the crew of the El Faro would be found safe. It is with heavy hearts this afternoon that we learn the Coast Guard has suspended their search for survivors,” said Anthony Chiarello, TOTE President & CEO.
“Out of respect for our seafarers, and for every seafarer here and around the world, it is critical that we understand what contributed to this accident. We are appreciative of the active participation into that effort by the NTSB. To every woman and man in the Merchant Marine, we promise our full and open participation into the investigation of this tragic accident,” he added.
The El Faro, a 790-foot roll on, roll off cargo ship, was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida. At approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Coast Guard watchstanders were notified the El Faro was disabled in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, had lost propulsion and had a 15-degree list. The crew reported the ship had previously taken on water, but that all flooding had been contained.
The Coast Guard located a deceased person in a survival suit in the water Sunday night. A heavily damaged life boat with markings consistent with those on board the El Faro were also located Sunday. Additional items located by search crews since Thursday include a partially submerged life raft, a survival suit, life jackets, life rings, cargo containers, Styrofoam, packaged food and an oil sheen.