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Faces of El Faro's crew

28 Americans, 5 Polish citizens missing after container ship sinks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As each day passes, the hope of finding survivors from the El Faro cargo ship diminishes.

Coast Guard search crews believe it sank Thursday off Crooked Island in the Bahamas as it passed near center of Hurricane Joaquin.

There were 33 people on board the container ship when it left the port of Jacksonville a week ago, headed for Puerto Rico. 

So far, rescuers found one body, but said was unidentifiable. 

Speaking with relatives and others, News4Jax is collecting the stories of the sailors on El Faro's last voyage.

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Dylan Meklin, 23, was an all-star athlete in Maine. He had just completed his training as a merchant seaman and this was his first trip to sea.

Michael Holland went to the same school: Maine Maritime Academy.

El Faro's captain, Michael Davidson, is also a graduate. TOTE Maritime said he had 20 years of experience at sea. His wife told the media he was "extremely capable" with "extensive training."

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Danielle Randolph, 34, was the ship's second mate. Just before the El Faro disappeared, she sent this email to her mother:

"Not sure if you have been following the weather at all but there is a hurricane out here and we are heading straight into it. Category 3 last we checked. Winds are super bad and seas are not great. Love to everyone."

Keith Griffin and Jeffrey Mathias graduated from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where staff remembered them kindly.

Many of the sailors were from Jacksonville, including LaShawn Rivera, who graduated from Raines High School and was working in El Faro's engine room.

Rivera's friend, Roosevelt Clark, attended the same school. Their friends and family are in shock, leaving messages of support on the men's Facebook pages.

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Larry Davis was a life-long mariner. The military veteran had been in the industry for more than two decades. His family said he was happily married for 39 years, with two kids and two grandchildren.

Frank Hamm III helped steer the ship. He texted his daughter, "I love you" before leaving port on Tuesday.

"He's a very good, lovable man," said Hamm's daughter, Destiny Sparrow. "Loves his job. Loves to work. Not one thing he wouldn't do for somebody"

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Mariette Wright's mother describes her as a ball of energy, an adventurous woman not afraid to work a tough job.

"She loves the sea," said Wright's mother, Mary Shevory. "She couldn't live without being on the sea somehow or somewhere. And that is her life, and now I'm so afraid she's lost it to the sea."

Many of these family members told News4Jax that this was a tough crew, trained and ready to handle the worst of conditions.  As unlikely as it may seem, they are holding onto hope that their loved ones are out there alive, just waiting to be rescued. 

Those from out of state are staying at hotels in Jacksonville, attending daily briefings by the ship's owner. American Red Cross volunteers are helping with any essentials. Religious leaders have also come by the hotels and the Seafarer's Union to pray with those who wanted to, giving them emotional support while they wait for the latest news.