JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WJZ/AP) — The Coast Guard says the primary cause of the sinking of a cargo ship two years ago that killed all 33 aboard was the captain misreading both the strength of a hurricane and his overestimation of the ship’s strength.
The Coast Guard report released Sunday makes recommendations stemming from the October 1, 2015, sinking of the El Faro, a 790-foot vessel that went down near the Bahamas when Capt. Michael Davidson tried to cut through Hurricane Joaquin.
The Jacksonville, Florida-based ship was headed to Puerto Rico.
“The master misjudged the path of Hurricane Joaquin and overestimated the vessels’ heavy weather survivability, while also failing to take adequate precautions to monitor and prepare for the heavy weather,” says the report.
The investigation found that the ship’s master, owner, the authorized class society, and even the U.S. Coast Guard shared responsibility in the ship going down.
Investigators found the ship failed to comply with working regulations, and that The Coast Guard oversight was lacking. The investigation also found the ships’ lifeboats had not been properly tested for years.
Thirty-three people on board at the went down with the ship, including Rochelle Hamm’s husband, Frank.
“The ship sank 39 miles away from the Crooked Islands, so this is how far Frank’s hat had traveled,” she said.
In 2016, Hamm spoke with WJZ about the tragedy that killed her husband, and the search for answers she and her family had been looking for.
“We don’t have a body, we don’t have a place where we can lay flowers. We don’t have a place where we can go and visit. I don’t want us to live the rest of our lives with the unknown,” she said.
Many of the families have settled lawsuits against the owner of the ship, Tote Maritime. The company has also filed a lawsuit against the company that provided forecasting services for the ship.
Voice recordings recovered from the ship show an increasingly panicked and stressed crew fighting to save the ship after it lost propulsion as they battled wind, shifting cargo and waves.
Davidson ordered the ship abandoned shortly before it sank.
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