U.S. officials said Saturday they believe they have found the remnants of the 790-foot cargo ship El Faro that went missing in the Bermuda Triangle Oct. 1 as Hurricane Joaquin whipped through the Bahamas. A sonar search conducted by the U.S. Navy captured images that seem to indicate the ship came to rest about 15,000 feet beneath the surface of the water, upright and in one piece.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board announced the discovery and said a more thorough search could begin as early as Sunday. The Navy will use a remote-controlled vehicle called CURV 21 to get a closer look at the wreckage, and possibly find a data recorder that could provide clues as to what happened on board. The NTSB conducted an extensive review of the ship's safety inspections and drills earlier this month and found no obvious maintenance problems. A complete investigation of the underwater site could take as long as 15 days.
El Faro was carrying 33 crew members when it set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It transmitted its last signal just 20 miles from the eye of the hurricane around 7:30 a.m. Oct. 1. Earlier that morning, the captain communicated in an emergency call that the boat had lost power and was taking on water. Not long after, it was likely caught in the 155 mph winds that spun around the center of the category 4 storm.
No survivors and few signs of the ship have been found in the weeks since -- a stray life preserver, a badly damaged lifeboat and one body in a survival suit that Coast Guard officials could not identify. The ship's captain had planned to sail in advance of the storm, but the vessel's owners said they believe a mechanical glitch left the boat stranded at sea. The ship is owned by TOTE Services of Jacksonville.