A day after the El Faro’s voyage data recorder was found, the National Transportation Safety Board said the device can’t be recovered during the current mission.
The team of investigators and scientists aboard the research vessel Atlantis have determined that given the VDR’s proximity to the mast and other obstructions, recovery can’t be accomplished with the equipment currently available.
Video and photographic images suggest that the VDR is still attached to a steel beam connected to the El Faro's mast structure.
“Now that we have been able to see just how the VDR is oriented relative to the mast structure, it’s clear that we’re going to need specialized deep-water salvage recovery equipment in order to bring it up,” said Brian Curtis, acting director of the NTSB Office of Marine Safety. “Extracting a recorder capsule attached to a four-ton mast under 15,000 feet of water presents formidable challenges, but we’re going to do everything that is technically feasible to get that recorder into our lab.”
Although a firm timetable for the recovery effort has not been set, the NTSB said they hoped to complete the mission within the next several months. The current mission will continue to gather imagery of the El Faro’s hull and debris field. It it scheduled to conclude on April 30, with the Atlantis due back at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on May 5.
TOTE Maritime’s 790’ ro/ro containership El Faro sank Oct. 1 during Hurricane Joaquin while en route from Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico, killing all 33 crew members aboard.