'I'm a goner': Audio transcripts reveal the desperate final moments of the crew of sinking cargo ship El Faro after its captain sailed into a hurricane and REFUSED to turn around'
- National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday released a 510-page audio transcript from the ship's voyage data recorder
- El Faro, a 790-foot US-flagged cargo ship, sank on October 1, 2015, during routine voyage from Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico
- All 33 onboard, including Captain Michael Davidson, perished when El Faro encountered Hurricane Joaquin
- The transcript covering 10 hours was drawn from six microphones on the ship's bridge
- Davidson received weather data by email that was six hours behind other information the crew received
The captain of the cargo ship El Faro that sank near the Bahamas last year refused to listen to his crew members' suggestions that he alter course just hours before the vessel was destroyed by Hurricane Joaquin, killing all 33 onboard.
The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday released a 510-page audio transcript from the ship's voyage data recorder and other data about the wreck, but said it was not yet ready to identify the cause behind the sinking, which occurred during a routine cargo run between Jacksonville, Florida, and Puerto Rico.
The 790-foot freighter went down on the morning of October 1, 2015, after losing propulsion in the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a US-flagged vessel in more than three decades.
The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday released a 510-page audio transcript from the voyage data recorder of the cargo ship El Faro, which sank last year with all 33 onboard
The data recorder from the sunken wreckage of the freighter El Faro rests in fresh water after being recovered in the Atlantic Ocean in August
The voyage data recorder is shown on the ocean floor next to the El Faro mast
The recordings reveal that at least two top crew members tried in vain to convince the captain, Michael Davidson, to change course as Hurricane Joaquin drew near, but Davidson rejected those suggestions, convinced that El Faro will be 60 miles south of the eye of the storm and 'should be fine.'
At 11pm on the eve of the sinking, a third mate called the captain twice, suggesting that he alter course due to the weather conditions., reported WABI-TV.
About two hours later, Davidson’s second mate called him, saying he should alter course because new weather data showed the hurricane was drawing near.
The transcripts suggest Captain Michael Davidson rejected crew members' suggestions that he alter course to avoid the hurricane
But the captain insisted to stay the course, believing that the ship would be safe south of the storm.
In fact, El Faro ended up being 22 miles north-northwest of the center of the hurricane when it sank.
'We're gettin' conflicting reports as to where the center of the storm is,' Davidson told his chief mate at 5.03am, according to the transcript. The alarm to abandon ship sounded about 2-1/2 hours later.
The transcript, the longest one ever produced by NTSB investigators covering 10 hours and drawn from six microphones on the ship's bridge, may be crucial in determining why the ship sailed close to the storm's center and why it was unable to withstand it, NTSB officials said at a news conference broadcast online.
CBS News reported that the VDR transcript shows the captain ordering crew members to abandon ship and get into life rafts.
Later, Davidson tells someone, 'You gotta get up. You gotta snap out of it– and we gotta get out.'
The maritime disaster claimed the lives of 33 men and women, some of them pictured and identified here: Second mate Danielle Randolph (left), crew member Jeremy Riehm, 46, from Bokeelia, Florida (center), engineer Michael Holland (right), 25
Jeffrey Mathias, 42 engineer (left), crewman Steve Shultz, 51 (center), Keith Griffin, 33, engineer (right)
Larry Davis, 62, crew member (left), Mariette Wright, 51, sailor (center), Shawn Thomas (right) was an oiler who worked in the ship's engine room
Shaun Rivera, 32, cook (left), Dylan Meklin, 23, engineer (center), Roosevelt 'Bootsy' Clark, 38 (right), a longtime sailor and aspiring preacher
Frank Hamm, 49, merchant marine (left), crewman Jackie 'Pops' Jones, 38 (center), James Porter, 40, merchant seaman (right)
Howard Schoelny (left), 50, was an engineer on the ship and was described as 'an incredible person' by his brother. Carey Hatch, 49 (right), worked at the Jacksonville's Seafarers Union Hall
At one point, a helmsman says, 'I’m a goner' and another helmsman asks the captain, 'You gonna leave me?'
The transcript ends on a chilling note, with Davidson telling an apparently panic-stricken crew member: 'Don’t freeze up ... I’m not leaving you. Let's go'
NTSB officials noted that the transcript is fractured. In the crucial hours before the deadly sinking, it is pocked with conversations that investigators could not entirely make out because of background noise or distance from microphones.
One question investigators are trying to answer is which weather data the El Faro crew relied on. Davidson received data by email that was six hours behind other information the crew received, officials said.
'There were many sources of weather information. In establishing what was likely viewed by various members of the crew at specific times during the voyage, that is part of the NTSB's ongoing investigation,' James Ritter, director of the NTSB's Office of Research and Engineering, said at the news conference.
This graphic, released by the NTSB on December 13, depicts the locations of the El Faro Oct. 1, 2015, relative to the locations of Hurricane Joaquin
A closeup view of the El Faro navigation bridge is shown on the ocean floor taken by an underwater video camera November 12, 2015
Doomed: The 790-foot El Faro went down on the morning of October 1, 2015 in the worst cargo shipping disaster involving a US-flagged vessel in more than three decades
A data recorder, including the voice recording from the bridge, was recovered from the wreckage about 15,000 feet below the surface of the ocean last summer.
Thomson Reuters Eikon data previously revealed that the El Faro was sailing at near full speed into the center of the storm, raising questions about the captain's voyage plan.
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