El Faro’s ‘black box’ reaches United States

It will be a while before any information can be made available from the newly recovered data recorder of El Faro, a ship that sank with its entire crew last October, a National Transportation Safety Board official said Friday.

The ship’s black box was recovered from 15,000 feet below sea level near the Bahamas earlier this week and came ashore Friday morning in Jacksonville, Florida.

Investigators are seeking insights into what happened in the hours before the the ship sank during Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 crew members went down with the ship; the 28 Americans and five Polish nationals are presumed dead.

Besides navigational data, the recorder is supposed to store 12 hours of audio from the bridge, said Brian Curtis, acting director of the NTSB’s office of marine safety.

“Investigatively, that would be an asset to know what was going on on the the bridge and conversations they had,” he said.

The black box was flown to the NTSB’s lab in Washington for analysis.

“It will be some time before we can share the data,” Curtis said. “It’ll be even longer before we can share what it gives us for circumstances of the accident and how it may contribute to probable cause.”

If any audio is on the box, only a transcript of it will be made public, said Curtis, who promised a timeline for the data release in a couple of weeks.

The owners of El Faro said the captain had a “sound plan” to avoid Hurricane Joaquin, but the ship’s main propulsion failed, stranding the crew in the path of the Category 4 storm.

The 40-year-old U.S.-flagged El Faro was headed to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida, and went missing near the Bahamas on October 1.

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