El Faro

El Faro

There’s still a lot to learn about the tragic loss of the El Faro.

The Jacksonville-based cargo ship that sank last October at sea during Hurricane Joaquin, killing all 33 people on board.

Two weeks of hearings recently wrapped up looking into the cause of the El Faro disaster.

And it was a sometimes contentious proceeding, with one investigator called the sinking "a colossal failure" of management before he apologized and took back the comment.

Investigators do want to confirm what mistakes were made, and also explore ways to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.

We recap the hearings with Jacksonville maritime attorney Rod Sullivan and WJCT News reporter Ryan Benk.

Contributed Photo

Coast Guard hearing into October’s sinking of the cargo freighter El Faro on Wednesday focused on routine ship inspections.

Day 5: Families Grieve As El Faro Hearings Continue

May 20, 2016

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.

Media Roundtable

We discuss the week's biggest news stories with our roundtable of local journalists: Paula Horvath, Florida Times-Union reporter; Fred Matthews, Examiner blogger; Claire Goforth, Folio Weekly editor; and WJCT reporter Ryan Benk.

Topics include lawsuits against the Duval County and Clay County school districts over transgender students and bathrooms, the latest in the El Faro investigation, and more.

LGBTQ Workshop

Contributed Photo

The Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation questioned American Bureau of Shipping employees in charge of vessel inspections Thursday.

Contributed Photo

Updated at 4:50 p.m.

The Marine Board of Investigation Wednesday questioned weather tracking company representatives over the accuracy and timeliness of the data it provides to shipping companies.


Coast Guard investigators are holding a new round of hearings in Jacksonville to take a deeper look into what led to the October sinking of cargo freighter El Faro.

Investigators talked safety procedure, the ship's condition and the crew’s professionalism with three witnesses Monday. The first hearing in February.


El Faro’s voyage data recorder will stay on the ocean floor for now.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday the research vessel used to find the missing recorder isn’t equipped to get it to the surface.

They hope to be able to retrieve it in the next couple of months.

cargo containers at JAXPORT
Roy Crumpler / JAXPORT

The Coast Guard hearing on the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship wrapped up in Jacksonville on Friday. It was the first hearing of its kind to be streamed live on the Internet.

In this week’s Business Brief, analyst John Burr tells News Director Jessica Palombo, the shipping industry is making voluntary changes because of the live broadcast. 


Software used to calculate a ship’s stability isn't always accurate. That’s what one witness told a Coast Guard panel investigating the October sinking of the El Faro freighter Thursday.

The weight and stability of the 790-foot vessel was questioned on the second-to-last day of testimony before the Marine Board of Investigation.


Coast Guard rescuers resorted to paper maps during the El Faro search effort in October. That’s because glitches in new vessel-tracking software kept crashing the operation’s onshore computers.

That’s according to testimony investigators heard in Jacksonville Wednesday.


Emotions ran high over the weekend as families of the El Faro crew heard Captain Michael Davidson’s distress calls for the first time.

The Marine Board of Investigation played the call while questioning TOTE Maritime’s “designated person ashore,” Captain John Lawrence. Lawrence was Davidson’s main company contact, but when the El Faro captain called, he could reach only a call center.

Lawrence told investigators the call center had a maritime-emergency plan, but it hadn’t been updated in the last year.

Ryan Benk / WJCT News

As the Coast Guard continues its hearing into the El Faro freighter sinking, families of lost crew members are asking Congress to help prevent future disasters.

They want more oversight and regulations for the cargo industry.

Ryan Benk / WJCT News

Coast Guard investigators heard from former crew members of the El Faro cargo ship Thursday in Jacksonville. The Marine Board of Investigation is three days into a hearing on the cause of the October sinking that killed 33 crewmembers.

Navigational Equipment And Alternate Routes

Some of the testimony focused on questions about the El Faro’s use of an outdated weather-tracking system.

Ryan Benk / WJCT News

Blame is being pointed at the deceased captain of the El Faro cargo ship at a Coast Guard hearing in Jacksonville this week.

Representatives of the companies that owned and operated the El Faro said Captain Michael Davidson alone made decisions that led the ship into the path of Hurricane Joaquin.