El Faro Transcript, Factual Reports, Made Public
The transcript from the El Faro’s voyage data recorder bridge audio was one of five factual reports added Tuesday to the NTSB’s El Faro investigation docket as part of the agency’s ongoing investigation into the maritime tragedy.
Entered into the docket were factual reports from the Electronic Data Group, Meteorology Group, Survival Factors Group, Engineering Group and the Voyage Data Recorder Audio Transcript Group.
The containership El Faro sank on October 1, 2015 near Crooked Islands, Bahamas, during Hurricane Joaquin. All 33 crewmembers perished.
The Engineering Group Factual Report contains information about the El Faro’s machinery system, a description and history of the vessel, maintenance histories for the plant, survey and inspection information, the vessel’s safety management system, and information about the training and experience of the El Faro’s engineering staff.
The Survival Factors Group Factual Report contains information about the U.S. Coast Guard’s search efforts, the El Faro’s survival equipment, crew preparedness, lifeboat standards and regulations, and information about distress transmissions.
The Electronic Data Group Factual Report provides a system overview and discussion of data recovered from the El Faro’s voyage data recorder and other onboard electronic systems. The ship’s voyage data recorder captured 26 hours of data leading up to the sinking of the vessel.
The Meteorology Group Factual Report provides information about what meteorological information was available to the El Faro’s crew.
The Voyage Data Recorder Audio Transcript Group Factual Report contains the transcript of the discernable and relevant bridge audio captured by the VDR.
The NTSB considers the information captured in the VDR’s bridge audio recording critical to determining the events leading up to the loss of the El Faro. The bridge audio was characterized as “poor quality” and contains high levels of background noise. However, this is not considered unusual.
The transcript required more than 1,100 work hours to complete. The transcript report is more than 500 pages and is the longest transcript ever produced by the NTSB.
The first recorded conversation about the forecasted weather was captured the morning of September 30, between the captain and chief mate, who agreed on a course diversion they believed would keep them sufficiently clear of the eye of Hurricane Joaquin. At about 4:37 a.m. On October 1, the chief mate received a phone call from the chief engineer regarding the vessel’s list and engine oil levels. This appears to be the first recorded conversation about these issues. The information was related to the captain.
At about 5:43 a.m. the captain takes a phone call and indicates there is a problem in the number three hold of the ship and sends the chief mate to investigate. They discuss suspected flooding, which appears to be the first recorded conversation about a flooding condition on the ship.
The captain indicates at about 6:13 a.m. that the ship lost propulsion. Numerous conversations are heard throughout the remainder of the recording about the ship’s flooding condition, attempts to rectify the ship’s list and attempts to regain propulsion.
The captain instructed the second mate to send a distress message at about 7:13 a.m. The captain gave the command to sound the ship’s general alarm at about 7:27 a.m. and about two minutes later the second mate exclaimed there were containers in the water and the captain gave the command to sound the abandon ship alarm. About four minutes later the captain relayed over the UHF radio to put the life rafts in the water.
The bridge audio recording ended at about 7:40 a.m. October 1, 2015, with the captain and one of the helmsmen still present on the bridge.
The public docket contains only factual information collected by NTSB investigators and does not provide analysis, findings, recommendations or probable cause determinations. Any analysis, findings, recommendations, or probable cause determinations related to the accident will be issued by the National Transportation Safety Board at a later date.
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