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Day 5: Families Grieve As El Faro Hearings Continue

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NPR
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JACKSONVILLE — Week 1 of U.S. Coast Guard hearings into the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro are scheduled wrapped up Friday, with the families of the crew in attendance as they have been all week. 

Pastor Robert Green — the father of LaShawn Rivera, who died on El Faro when it sank in a hurricane last October — handed out  bracelets to people at the hearing Friday, saying it’s just one of the ways he and others want to support all 33 families involved in the incident, including holding grief sessions every fourth week.

"There are some families that are at different places in their grief process, and some of them may have overcome that," Green said. "But there are still others that enjoy coming and have enjoyed being able to come together."

Notifications failed to reach officials

Another official with the American Bureau of Shipping, who inspects ships, testified before the panel Friday morning. The Coast Guard focused on a lot of what ABS knew and didn’t know relating to El Faro before the ship left Jacksonville in September.

During the last round of hearings, work was being done on El Faro to get the ship ready to move to Alaska for a new trade route. ABS said Friday it wasn’t aware of some of the changes.

"ABS was not aware of any weight changes being made on El Faro in 2015, including the addition of fructose tanks," said Thomas Gruber, witness and former group head of loading and stability with ABS. "ABS is required to be notified of those changes so they can make updates to the cargo stability requirements of the ship."

There were also issues with the scuttles on the ship.

"Scuttles on the ship were required to be weather tight, not water tight. Because of that, it's possible that water can get into the hull of the ship even if the scuttle is closed," said Gruber.