Coast Guard Says Captain’s Mistakes Led to Sinking of El Faro Cargo Ship

Mistakes by the captain of the El Faro led to the sinking of the cargo ship and the deaths of the entire crew of 33, according to a Coast Guard report released Sunday — two years to the day after the tragedy.

Capt. Michael Davidson misjudged the strength of Hurricane Joaquin and should have changed the El Faro’s route to avoid the storm’s brutal, 150-mph winds, the report said. When the ship got stuck, Davidson should have taken more aggressive measures to save it, the report added.

Davidson “was ultimately responsible for the vessel, the crew and its safe navigation,” said Capt. Jason Neubauer at a news conference in Jacksonville, Fla.

Neubauer, who chaired the investigation, said the Coast Guard would have moved to revoke Davidson’s license if he had survived.

The ship’s owner, TOTE Maritime Inc., had not replaced a safety officer, spreading out those duties among other managers, and had violated regulations regarding crew rest periods and working hours, according to the report.

“This tragedy never should have happened,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in a statement after the report was released. “The findings in this report will serve as a roadmap for how we can prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.”

The ship, bound for Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Fla., sank near the Bahamas on Oct. 1, 2015. Transcripts released by the National Transportation Safety Board last December showed an increasingly anxious and panicked crew as the 790-foot container ship sailed into the raging storm.

“That’s us, that’s the storm,” says second mate Danielle Randolph as crew members viewed the hurricane on their electronic equipment.

“I don’t know if any other ships are going right into it like we are,” Randolph says.

Davidson dismisses a crew member’s suggestion to return to shore a few hours later. “No, no, no. We’re not gonna turn around,” he says.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Susan Miller