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NTSB Confirms El Faro Located

National Transportation Safety Board

UPDATE  1:06 p.m.: The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed the wreckage found is in fact from the El Faro. Federal investigators say it may take more than two weeks to recover the vessel's data recorder, which is fixed to the ship.

More details as the story develops. 

Wreckage of what is believed to be the El Faro cargo ship that sunk a month ago was discovered around the vessel's last known location.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced the finding Saturday afternoon after a Navy boat caught a glimpse of what's believed to be the sunken ship under 15,000 feet of water.

Using sophisticated sonar equipment, the Navy tugboat came across wreckage consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship and it appears to be in the upright position and in one piece.

The Navy discovered the wreckage during the fifth of 13 sonar sweeps and the NTSB says it'll be sending a remote-controlled vessel below the surface to confirm the finding as early as Sunday.

Florida Coastal School of Law Professor Rod Sullivan says if the Navy finds the ship sustained vertical cracks, the ship’s owner, TOTE Services, could be found solely responsible for its demise.

“That could indicate that the very first thing happened here is the vessel broke. If so, that indicates this vessel was overly stressed, too old and that the reason it sank is because it broke up in heavy weather,” Sullivan says.

Investigators say the ship appears to be intact and upright, and the Navy is using a remote-controlled sub to confirm.

On Friday, TOTE Services filed a limitation of liability motion in court, consolidating litigation and setting up a $15 million fund for the El Faro crew’s families.

This is a developing story, and more updates are to follow.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.