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NTSB Decides to Launch Second Search for El Faro Voyage Data Recorder

It has been a little over four months since the El Faro went missing on October 1, 2015. Even after extensive search and investigation efforts, not all the pieces of the tragic incident have been put together. What actually caused the vessel to sink? What was going on in those last minutes amidst Hurricane Joaquin’s thrashing winds? Many believe the key to these answers is still missing—and can be found in the voyage data record (VDR).

Earlier today, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that it has made the decision to launch a second search mission for this crucial component. While the initial search uncovered a majority of the sunken wreckage of the El Faro, the VDR was never recovered.

Re-Launch of Search Expected to Begin in April

According to the NTSB, the investigation for additional evidence and missing ship cargo will begin in April and is expected to last around two weeks. The primary mission is to locate the VDR and gain a more detailed survey of the shipwreck.

On October 31, the ship and debris field were located near the Bahamas. Video recordings of this investigation showed that the bridge structure and deck below it had been torn off—the place where the VDR was mounted—but these pieces couldn’t be found in the nearby vicinity. Though the initial search mission wrapped on November 15, the NTSB has decided that finding more evidence is essential to their investigation.

“The voyage data recorder may hold vital information about the challenges encountered by the crew in trying to save the ship,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Getting that information could be very helpful to our investigation.”

The NTSB is partnering with the United States Navy, the National Science Foundation, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the National Deep Submergence Facility to perform the search of the approximately 35 square kilometer area. They will be equipped with a number of different research tools and vehicles to aid in their mission. If the VDR is successfully located, a third mission utilizing a remotely operated vehicle may be necessary to retrieve the recorder.

Arnold & Itkin is representing families and loved ones connected to the El Faro case. We are here to keep you updated on the progress of the investigation as more information is gained on the cause of this tragic incident.

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