BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It was one of the deadliest U.S. shipwrecks in decades — 33 crew members aboard the El Faro were killed last October when the boat sailed into Category 3 Hurricane Joaquin.
Today, the last hours and minutes of the 790-foot freighter ship’s sinking were revealed by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The boat’s final resting place was 15,000 feet below the Caribbean east of the Bahamas. That’s where search crews hauled up the ship’s recorder last summer.
Rochelle Hamm’s husband Frank, who grew up in Baltimore, was among those killed.
“We’ve got five kids, three grandkids,” she told WJZ. “It’s been very difficult. My whole household has changed. My whole life has changed.”
Hamm attended the briefing by the NTSB on the disaster Tuesday morning. It centered around about ten hours of transcribed audio from the doomed freighter ship’s Voyage Data Recorder.
The transcript, which is more than 500 pages long, is the longest ever produced by the NTSB.
It revealed some of the weather data was six hours old when it reached the ship, which lost propulsion and steering as the hurricane bared down.
The El Faro bridge audio recording began about 5:37 a.m. Sept 30, 2015, roughly 8 hours after ship left Jacksonville, Florida. It ended around 7:40 a.m. Oct. 1.
Loud crashes and banging were picked up by mics on the boat’s bridge deck near the end of the recording, as well as chilling exchanges between the captain and crew.
The transcript shows the captain ordering people to get into life rafts. Later, it shows the captain telling someone “You gotta get up. You gotta snap out of it– and we gotta get out.”
It shows a helmsman saying “I’m a goner” and another helmsman asking the captain “You gonna leave me?”
Earlier in the transcript, the captain is show as saying “We’ll be about sixty miles south of the eye. It should be fine. We are gonna be fine – not should be – we are gonna be fine.”
Despite the release of so much data, the exact cause of the sinking is still to be determined by the NTSB.
“It was very difficult, but God held us up and held us together,” Hamm said.
The NTSB may not have made a determination yet, but Hamm has said she blames the tragedy on the captain, for waiting too long to change course.
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