Coast Guard Report: Captain to Blame in El Faro Sinking

Capt. Michael Davidson underestimated hurricane, overestimated ship
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2017 6:41 AM CDT
Coast Guard Report: Captain to Blame in El Faro Sinking
This undated image made from a video released April 26, 2016, by the National Transportation Safety Board shows the stern of the sunken ship El Faro.   (Uncredited)

A Coast Guard report released Sunday says the primary cause of the 2015 sinking of the cargo ship El Faro, which killed all 33 aboard, was the captain underestimating the strength of a hurricane and overestimating the ship's strength. The report says Capt. Michael Davidson should have changed the El Faro's route between Jacksonville, Fla., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, to avoid Hurricane Joaquin's 150mph winds, per the AP. When the 790-foot vessel got stuck, the report adds, he should have taken more aggressive measures to save it. Speaking at a Jacksonville news conference, Capt. Jason Neubauer also said the Coast Guard would have sought to revoke Davidson's license if he'd survived. Davidson "was ultimately responsible for the vessel, the crew, and its safe navigation," said Neubauer, who chaired the investigation.

The El Faro went down Oct. 1, 2015, near the Bahamas; no bodies were recovered. Neubauer said Davidson "misjudged the path of Hurricane Joaquin and overestimated the vessel's heavy weather survivability while also failing to take adequate precautions to monitor and prepare for heavy weather." Davidson ordered the ship abandoned before it sank, but its open-air lifeboats likely would have provided insufficient protection, the Coast Guard said. The report adds the ship's owner, TOTE Maritime, hadn't replaced a safety officer and had violated other regulations. The Coast Guard said it will seek civil actions against TOTE, which released a statement saying the report "is another piece of this sacred obligation that everyone who works upon the sea must study and embrace. The report details industry practices [that] need change." Check out the AP for more findings. (More Coast Guard stories.)

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