NTSB: El Faro captain reported hull breach

Story highlights

  • El Faro is presumed to have sunk during Hurricane Joaquin this month
  • Thirty-three people were on board the cargo ship when it disappeared
  • National Transportation and Safety Board issues update on its investigation

(CNN)The captain of a cargo ship presumed to have sunk during Hurricane Joaquin had reported a hull breach, a blown scuttle and the presence of water on board, the National Transportation and Safety Board reported Tuesday.

The 40-year-old El Faro never made it to Puerto Rico after it left Jacksonville, Florida, this month, and appears to have sunk near islands in the Bahamas. Thirty-three people were on board.
In a recorded call, the ship's captain reported a marine emergency early October 1.
    He also reported a hull breach, a scuttle had blown open, and the presence of water, according to the NTSB. The captain said the ship had lost its main propulsion unit and that engineers were unable to get it going.
    El Faro's last reported position was about 20 miles from the edge of the hurricane's eye, the NTSB said. That is true despite the captain having said he planned to take the ship along a route that would pass about 65 miles from the storm's center, according to the NTSB.
    Investigators from the federal agency also found the following:
    • El Faro successfully completed the American Bureau of Shipping class and statutory surveys in February, meeting all regulations and rules;
    • An annual inspection of the ship was done in March;
    • In September, the ship owner shut down one of the ship's two boilers so that it could be inspected. The boiler service company recommended service to both boilers as a result of that inspection. That service had been scheduled for November;
    • Safety drills were conducted on a weekly basis;
    • El Faro met stability criteria when it left Jacksonville.
    Three former crew members of El Faro have told CNN the ship had structural problems and questioned whether it should have sailed with a major storm in the region.
    The family of a crew member has also filed a lawsuit against the company that owned the ship and the boat's missing captain for $100 million.
    Attorney Willie E. Gary filed the suit on behalf of Joanna Johnson, who will be the executor of the estate of Lonnie Jordan, who was one of the 33 people on board.
    "Money won't bring him back, I know that. But we're going to change things and that's what big business understands is when you hit them in their pockets," Gary told reporters.
    Gary alleged that El Faro wasn't seaworthy and that ship owner Tote Services and Tote Maritime Puerto Rico were greedy. He said there was another ship available and safety shouldn't have been sacrificed.
    Tote Services has said that while the maritime accident is being investigated, it cannot comment on El Faro's disappearance. CNN reached out for comment on the lawsuit but didn't immediately hear back.