Final hearing starts next week for Coast Guard's El Faro investigation

737-foot ship sank in October 2015


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The third and final Marine Board of Investigation hearing into the sinking of the Jacksonville-based cargo ship El Faro will begin next week.

The public hearing into the loss of El Faro and its 33 crew members is scheduled to start Monday at the Prime F. Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The hearing will run daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Feb. 17. No witnesses are scheduled on the weekends.

During the hearing, additional elements of the investigation will be reviewed, including crew witnesses and officials from the Coast Guard and TOTE, which is the company that owned El Faro.

Contents of the ship's voyage data recorder will be examined, including the transcript of the bridge audio recordings, which was released Dec. 13 by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Officials recovered about 26 hours of information from the black box, which revealed that Capt. Michael Davison twice ignored suggestions to change course in the hours before El Faro sank in the Caribbean, according to the NTSB.

The 737-foot ship sank about 7:40 a.m. Oct. 1, 2015, fewer than 90 minutes after losing power just east of the Bahamas as Hurricane Joaquin approached.

The NTSB, which is conducting its own investigation, will fully participate in the Marine Board of Investigation hearings.

The investigation aims to determine the factors that led to the accident, whether there is any evidence of misconduct or inattention to duty, and whether any evidence exists that any Coast Guard personnel or any representative of any other government agency caused or contributed to the casualty.

To keep up with the proceedings, people are encouraged to follow the Coast Guard (@uscoastguard) on Twitter and by tracking the hashtags #CGMBI and #Elfaro.

An email address -- ELFARO@uscg.mil -- has been set up for people to ask questions or make comments. The account will be checked regularly, officials said.

Interested followers of the case can also watch a livestream, and an archive of past El Faro proceedings, by clicking here.