Families grieve as El Faro hearings continue
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Week 1 of a second round of U.S. Coast Guard hearings into the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro wraped up Fridaywith the families of the crew in attendance as they have been all week.
Pastor Robert Green, the father of LaShawn Rivera -- who died on El Faro when it sank in a hurricane last October, handed out bracelets to people at the hearing Friday, saying it’s just one of the ways he and others want to support all 33 families involved in the incident, including holding grief sessions every fourth week.
"There are some families that are at different places in their grief process, and some of them may have overcome that," said Green. "But there are still others that enjoy coming and have enjoyed being able to come together."
Despite how technical the hearings were at times, Green says the week has been very insightful for him.
"Even though my son sailed for 13 years, we knew very little about the conditions that he sailed under," Green said.
Notifications failed to reach officials
Another official with the American Bureau of Shipping, who inspects ships, testified before the panel Friday morning. The Coast Guard focused on a lot of what ABS knew and didn’t know relating to El Faro before the ship left Jacksonville in September of last year.
During the last round of hearings, work was described about getting El Faro ready for a move to Alaska for a new trade route. ABS said Friday it wasn’t aware of some of the changes.
"ABS was not aware of any weight changes being made on El Faro in 2015, including the addition of fructose tanks," said Thomas Gruber, witness and former group head of loading and stability with ABS. "ABS is required to be notified of those changes so they can make updates to the cargo stability requirements of the ship."
The added fructose tanks was less than 2 percent of the ships weight, and according to TOTE, is not something they would have to report.
"I would guess that TOTE made these tanks under 2 percent so they didn’t have to go through the process of recertifying stability and trim, said Rod Sullivan, maritime attorney.
There were also issues with the scuttles on the ship.
"Scuttles on the ship were required to be weather tight, not water tight. Because of that, it's possible that water can get into the hull of the ship even if the scuttle is closed," said Gruber.
"During the first two weeks of the incident, we got all of TOTE’s best witnesses when they said safety is always job one," said Sullivan. "Captain Hearn came in and said maybe that’s not the case. Sometimes they let safety slide in light of other concerns."
WATCH: El Faro hearings
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