U.S. Navy finds wreckage believed to be missing cargo ship, El Faro

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The wreckage of a cargo ship believed to be the El Faro has been located by a U.S. Navy search team in about 15,000 feet of water, the National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday night.

The El Faro went missing near the Bahamas on October 1 during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people on board. The ship’s 28 American crew members and five Polish nationals are presumed dead. One body was found during the Coast Guard search of the sea surface in the days after the ship disappeared.

“The target identified by Orion (side-scan radar) is consistent with a 790-foot cargo ship, which from sonar images appears to be in an upright position and in one piece,” the NTSB said.

The NTSB said the USNS Apache crew located the wreckage at 1:36 pm ET during the fifth of 13 planned search line surveys.

The Navy plans to send a remotely-operated vehicle called CURV 21 to investigate the wreckage on Sunday. The CURV 21 has video equipment that will help identify the name of the vessel.

The 40-year-old El Faro never made it to Puerto Rico after it left Jacksonville, Florida.

In a recorded call, the ship’s captain reported a marine emergency early October 1. Capt. Michael Davidson also reported a hull breach, a scuttle had blown open, and the presence of water, NTSB said last week. The captain said the ship had lost its main propulsion unit and that engineers were unable to get it going.

The ship is believed to have sunk some 35 miles northeast of Crooked Island in the Bahamas as Hurricane Joaquin raged in the region. Debris had washed up last week in the Bahamas, leading searchers to believe they were looking in the right area.

By Steve Almasy