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El Faro Voyage Data Recorder Arrives At Mayport Naval Station

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Cyd Hoskinson
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WJCT News
National Transportation Safety Board's Brian Curtis leaves the USNS Apache with the case containing El Faro's voyage data recorder.

Accident investigators are one step closer to finding of what happened in the hours prior to cargo freighter El Faro sinking off the coast of the Bahamas last fall.

The ship’s voyage data recorder was raised earlier this week from 15 thousand feet of water and arrived at Mayport Naval Station Friday morning aboard the Navy Ship Apache.

Brian Curtis is the acting Director of the National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Maritime Safety.

Curtis said just looking at it, the device appears to be intact.

“It didn’t show any damage but that doesn’t mean much because really, what we’re interested in is what’s inside, whether we can access the files,” he said.

According to Curtis, the VDR should hold GPS, radar and other navigational data as well as twelve hours of audio from El Faro’s bridge.

“It may contain more, depending on memory size but certainly, investigatively, that would be an asset to know what was going on on the bridge and the conversations they had,” he said.

The VDR is expected to provide a snapshot of El Faro’s final hours before it was overwhelmed by Hurricane Joaquin and sank, killing all 33 crew members on board.

Curtis says it will probably take investigators at the NTSB laboratory in Washington D.C. a couple of weeks to know exactly what’s there.