Aircraft returned to the southeastern Bahamas early Sunday to resume the search for a US cargo ship that has not been heard from since it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin, and the Coast Guard quickly said it spotted "life jackets, life rings, containers, and an oil sheen" in the search area. Searchers were scouring a broad expanse of the Atlantic Ocean around Crooked Island, which the ship was passing when it was battered by fierce winds and waves by what was then a Category 4 hurricane. The Coast Guard on Saturday located a life ring from the 790-foot cargo ship but turned back at nightfall. The storm has moved out of the Bahamas but pilots were still contending with high winds and low visibility that made the search difficult and dangerous, said a Coast Guard rep.
"Our hope is that we can really saturate that area better than yesterday," said the rep earlier. The El Faro departed Jacksonville, Fla., on Tuesday, when Joaquin was still a tropical storm, with 28 American crew members and five from Poland. The ship's operator, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, said it had told family members of the crew not to be discouraged by the discovery of a life ring, saying it may help authorities narrow the search. "While this reflects that the ship was caught in rough seas and extreme weather, it is in no way indicative of the ship's fate," the company said in a statement. "Small items such as life rings and life jackets are lost at sea frequently, particularly in rough weather."