Date Set For Release of El Faro VDR Transcript
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board will release a detailed transcript from the El Faro’s voyage data recorder’s (VDR) audio recording on December 13.
The U.S.-flagged El Faro sank during Hurricane Joaquin on October 1, 2015, and all 33 crewmembers on board perished in the accident. The ship’s voyage data recorder was recovered from the ocean floor at a depth of about 15,000 feet on August 8, 2016.
A voyage data recorder group was convened on August 15 to audition the ship’s VDR and to develop a detailed transcript of the sounds and discernible words captured on the El Faro’s bridge audio.
About 26 hours of information was recovered from the VDR, including bridge audio, navigational data, onboard radar images and wind data. Investigators examined the VDR, found it to be in good condition.
Numerous events leading up to the loss of the El Faro are heard on the VDR’s audio, recorded from microphones on the ship’s bridge. The quality of audio contains high levels of background noise. There are times during the recording when the content of crew discussion is difficult to determine, at other times the content can be determined using advanced audio filtering.
The recording began about 5:37 a.m., September 30, 2015 – about eight hours after the El Faro departed Jacksonville, Florida, with the ship about 150 nautical miles southeast of the city. The bridge audio from the morning of October 1, captured the master and crew discussing their actions regarding flooding and the vessel’s list. The vessel’s loss of propulsion was mentioned on the bridge audio about 6:13 a.m.
Also captured was the master speaking on the telephone, notifying shoreside personnel of the vessel’s critical situation. He also informed them he was going to send out an emergency distress signal. The master sounded the abandon ship alarm about 7:30 a.m., October 1, 2015. The recording ended about 10 minutes later when the El Faro was about 39 nautical miles northeast of Crooked Island, Bahamas.
The information release will contain only factual information about weather, engineering, survival factors and data from the El Faro’s voyage data recorder.
It will not include analysis, findings, recommendations or probable cause determinations, and as such, no conclusions about how or why an accident occurred should be drawn, says the NTSB.
The 6,400-pound remotely operated vehicle CURV-21 surfaces, as U.S. Navy SUPSALV and Phoenix International crewmembers prepare to bring the voyage data recorder capsule from the sunken El Faro aboard USNS Apache Aug. 8, 2016. (NTSB Photo by James Anderson)