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Senator asks for new El Faro data recorder search

Senator hopes to prevent similar tragedies

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sen. Bill Nelson is demanding that the National Transportation Safety Board conduct a second search for the El Faro’s missing data recorder.

The El Faro freighter ship sank on Oct. 1 while en route from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico after navigating into the path of a hurricane and losing power.
 
Nelson is urging the NTSB to take every step possible to recover the voyage data recorder to prevent tragedies like this from happening again. Investigators have theories on how and why the ship was listing and lost propulsion. He said the data recorder would leave nothing to question.
 
”I’ve asked them to go back and try it again,” Nelson said.
 
Finding the El Faro wreckage nearly 3 miles below the surface of the ocean isn’t enough for Nelson,  who wants to know why the captain steered the ship into the path of Hurricane Joaquin and why the freighter started taking on water, and listed, before ultimately losing power.
 
"All of those things should not happen all at once, so the NTSB has done all of this investigation," Nelson said. "I believe they can go back down and see if they can find the recorder. That would give them every piece of information they may (need to) know to find out why those mistakes were made.”
 
Nelson made the request in a letter sent Thursday to the chairman of the NTSB, urging the agency to enlist the help of the U.S. Navy and search the ocean bottom once again. The data recorder was attached to one of the bridges that sheared away from the freighter. 
 
Pastor Robert Green's son, Lashawn Rivera, was one of the 33 killed in the sinking.
 
"I think it’s part of that puzzle we can closure right now," Green said. "We’re trying to fit those pieces together, and certainly knowing more facts, what was going on in the bridge, what was said, could help us wrap our minds around it also.”
 
Green also said the information on the data recorder could give investigators the information they need to ensure a tragedy like this never happens again.
 
"I think the NTSB has a standard that they use right now, but I think we should go above and beyond that standard and open up new things, and it may not be traditional, it may mean searching the beaches on sparsely populated islands, or searching shallow waters," Green said. "Those are the things that would have to happen to find what we are looking for.”

The NTSB issued a statement Thursday in response to Nelson's request.

"We appreciate Senator Nelson’s ongoing support of the NTSB, and his interest in our investigation into the loss of the cargo ship El Faro," the statement reads.
 
"Our original search mission provided us with useful information that may help us improve the chances of locating the voyage data recorder in a subsequent search.  Since that initial mission concluded in November, we have been evaluating the feasibility and cost of another search mission. We are looking at the availability of search and salvage assets, and the probability of success in finding the VDR capsule, among other factors.  
 
"A decision on whether to launch another search mission will likely be made in the next few weeks."


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