Offshore InjuryBlog

Arnold & Itkin LLP Files Lawsuit for El Faro Sinking

On October 28, Attorneys Kurt Arnold, Jason Itkin, and Cory Itkin of Arnold & Itkin filed suit in the 17th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida for the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship. Their suit was filed on behalf of the estate of Anthony Shawn Thomas, one of the victims aboard the ship. Thomas left behind a wife and five children.

El Faro’s Voyage

In the complaint, it is alleged that the El Faro sailed near the eye of Joaquin on September 30—which was, at the time, a Category One hurricane with winds reaching 75 mph. Prior to the El Faro leaving its port, there were several warnings regarding the storm’s strength issued by the National Weather Service. Despite this, the defendants still allowed the ship to leave. At noon, the captain filed a report stating that the weather conditions were favorable; he conferred with a sister ship on its return back to Florida and determined the weather was good enough to continue. On September 30, tracking data shows the ship was moving at or near full speed.

At approximately 5:00 p.m., the ship moved through a gap in the Bahama Islands in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to avoid the storm. The following report showed that the cargo ship was on collision course with the hurricane. By 11:00 p.m. of that day, Hurricane Joaquin had become a Category Three with winds above 115 mph. Despite that knowledge, the defendants still allowed El Faro to continue on its trek. At some point on October 1, the cargo ship experienced a complete engine failure. The captain called the defendants at approximately 7:00 p.m. to inform them of the mechanical failures and propulsion loss.

In the message that he left, the captain of the ship stated the following:

  • The engines were disabled;
  • The ship was listing at 15 degrees; and
  • Water was coming into the ship through an opened hatch.

In the complaint, it is stated that “without power, the M/V EL FARO was merely a cork in the sea as the Hurricane neared.” Without propulsion, the ship drifted near Crooked Island. At 7:15 a.m. the next day, distress alerts were received by the U.S. Coast Guard. These were the last-known transmissions from the ship.

The 33 crewmembers aboard the ship were never heard from again.

History of the El Faro

The El Faro is owned by Sea Star Line, LLC and operated by TOTE Services. It was a U.S.-flagged freight ship that came in at more than 700 feet in length and was manufactured in 1975. In the last dozen years, there have been at least 23 documented deficiencies recorded with the U.S. Coast Guard. Beyond that, the ship had a history of losing power. In 2011, it was reported to have lost power while on a voyage, leaving it disabled in open water; a later investigation found that the loss of power and propulsion was caused by faulty equipment.

That same year, the ship broke free from its mooring doing Hurricane Irene and suffered damage.

Prior to leaving port on what would become its last voyage, the El Faro had been receiving significant repair, maintenance, and alteration to its boilers. In addition, another company had been hired to perform vessel maintenance, repairs and alterations; these occurred both before and during the voyage. The company hired had five of its employees aboard the El Faro during the final voyage to perform this work.

Putting Profits Above Rules & Regulations

In the complaint, the law firms stated that the defendants had “a history of cutting corners and inadequately maintaining and operating their fleet of vessels.” They also pointed out that defendants pled guilty to charges of price fixing and racketeering in 2011. Those charges were tied to the defendants fixing their prices for sea transportation between the United States and Puerto Rico. As stated in the complaint, “These actions shed light into the Defendants’ continuous disregard of rules and regulations for the sole purpose of seeking profits.”

Arnold & Itkin LLP: Demanding Justice for El Faro Victims

Currently, we at Arnold & Itkin LLP are representing more U.S. families affected by the tragic El Faro incident than any other law firm in the nation. As skilled Jones Act and maritime injury lawyers, we have a history of handling tragic, complex maritime accidents. Following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, nearly one third of the crewmembers turned to our firm for help. We ensured that they were taken care of for life.

Our hearts and prayers go out to those who lost loved ones in the sinking of the El Faro, and we are passionate about demanding justice on their behalf. We hope that this lawsuit will allow us to do just that. If you have questions or if you would like to talk to one of our maritime accident attorneys, please call us at 888-346-5024.

To learn more, check out this NBC article.

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