(WASHINGTON) — Nearly 10 months after the cargo ship El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recovered a key piece of evidence that could answer many remaining questions about the loss of El Faro and its 33-member crew.
The agency announced Tuesday that the voyage data recorder was successfully retrieved from the ocean floor in the Bahamas late Monday evening.
“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. "But it’s just one component of a very complex investigation.”
In April, the agency said it located the recorder at a depth of about 15,000 feet, where the wreckage rests. But recovering it was an entirely different mission.
The NTSB said its next step would be to “determine how the VDR can be retrieved.”
On Aug. 4, the agency launched its third mission to the wreckage site of El Faro from Virginia Beach, Virginia, in hopes of recovering the voyage data recorder.
Late last night, with the assistance of a deep ocean-remotely operated underwater vehicle dubbed “CURV-21” and other specialized tools, the capsule containing navigational data and communications between crew members reached the deck of the Military Sealift Command’s ocean tug.
The recorder will be examined and transported back to the NTSB’s laboratory in Washington, D.C.
No future trips to the accident site are planned.
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