The search for the El Faro, a container ship that sank off Crooked Island in the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1, has turned up nothing so far, the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement Tuesday evening.

Four Maine residents, including the El Faro’s captain, Michael Davidson of Windham, were among the 33 crew members lost when the ship went down. The four and another crew member were graduates of the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.

Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, said in a press release that the United States Navy ship ‘Apache’ arrived at the last known location of the El Faro on Friday.

The Navy ship began searching with a towed pinger locater, a submersible device the Navy uses to locate the acoustic signal from a ship’s voyage data recorder (VDR), or black box. It can locate pings at depths of up to 20,000 feet, but the VDR’s battery only lasts about 30 days once it is activated.

The NTSB press release said that the Apache “concluded the first phase of the pinger locater search on Oct. 26 (Monday) with negative results.”

The NTSB said the pinger locater’s ability to detect the ship’s VDR signal could be affected by the way the vessel is lying on the ocean floor. The ship sank in seas up to 15,000 feet deep.

On Tuesday, the Apache used an Orion side-scan sonar system to search for the El Faro. This phase of the recovery operation will include 13 search tracks, and will take about 14 days to complete. If the ship is detected, the side-scan sonar can create an image of the vessel.

Meanwhile, a memorial service was held Sunday in Rockport for 23-year-old Dylan Meklin, the youngest member of the El Faro crew. Meklin was a 2010 graduate of Rockland District High School and a 2015 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy.

Governor Paul LePage ordered all flags in Knox County flown at half staff Sunday. Coast Guard members also floated a wreath at sea in his memory.

Another crew member, 34-year-old Danielle Randolph, was also from Rockland. She was a 2004 graduate of Maine Maritime Academy.

Also lost at sea were 25-year-old Michael Holland of Wilton, a 2012 academy graduate, and Mitchell Kuflik of Brooklyn, New York, a 2011 graduate.

According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, a recorded satellite phone call to the emergency call center of the ship’s owner – Tote Maritime – revealed that Davidson told the operator he had a marine emergency. Davidson reported that there was a hull breach, a scuttle had blown open and there was water entering hold number three. He also reported the ship had lost its main propulsion unit and that engineers could not restart it.

Davidson estimated the height of the seas at the time of the distress call to be 10 to 12 feet. At the time, the Coast Guard received electronic distress alerts from three sources on the ship including its Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB).

The El Faro’s last reported position was about 20 miles from the edge of the eye of the hurricane.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]


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