By MarEx 2015-10-05 10:11:42
One body has been located by crews searching for the cargo ship El Faro that went missing off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Monday.
Rescuers are no longer looking for the ship, which is believed to have sunk, and have shifted their focus to searching for survivors, Coast Guard spokesman Mark Fedor said.
A heavily damaged life boat from the ship was recovered but had no occupants, he said.
U.S. Coast Guard officials believe that the El Faro, which has been missing since October 1, sunk as it was caught in the path of Hurricane Joaquin.
Rescuers continue to search for survivors, said Chief Petty Officer Bobby Nash in Miami.
“It’s still an active search and rescue,” he said.
Over the weekend, a 225-square-mile debris field was discovered by crews looking for signs of the Tote Maritime-operated cargo ship. Life jackets, containers and an oil sheen were spotted by USCG aircrews flying over the Bahamas on the third day of their search for the container ship.
The debris was discovered by the Tote-operated M/V El Yunque and a tugboat hired to search for the El Faro.
El Faro, a 735-foot box ship with 28 U.S. citizens and five Polish nationals on board, was headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida when it reported losing propulsion and that it was listing and taking on water.
“We are very surprised that we lost all communication with the ship,” Mike Hanson, a spokesman for Tote Maritime Puerto Rico, said.
Philip Greene, president and CEO of Tote Services, part of the New Jersey-based Tote shipping company and which also includes Tote Maritime, said the captain of the El Faro had been watching the storm closely and had calculated he had enough room to steer to its west.
When the ship’s engine broke down, “that left him in the path of Joaquin,” Greene said.
The Coast Guard is conducting its search for the fourth day and have covered an area over 70,000 square nautical miles in its effort. Officials say the search area is about the size of Michigan.
Joaquin hammered the Bahamas for two days with 130 miles per hour winds, a Category 4 hurricane on a scale of 1 to 5.