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El Faro families endure technical testimony listening for answers

Coast Guard Marine Board continues hearings into sinking of cargo ship

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Families of some of the 33 crewmembers who died when the El Faro sank in the Caribbean during a fall 2015 hurricane sat through another day of testimony from marine experts Tuesday as the Coast Guard hearings into the tragedy continued.

Much of the testimony focused on industry regulations. While part of the fact-finding process, it won't provide the answers family members are hoping to hear.

"I believe the families are here not because we understand all of the technical detail but because we are drawn to be here providing that sense of closure and healing," said LaShawn Rivera, whose son died when the Jacksonville-based cargo ship went down.

Green is looking forward to testimony scheduled later this week by executives of TOTE Maritime, owners of El Faro.

"I think there will probably be more leverage to get more detail," Green said. "With the transcripts and hearing the steps and actions they took on the bridge, we can piece together if those actions were commonplace or if they were extreme. To what measure should those have happened that they didn’t?"

Tuesday's final witness testified that one plausible sequence leading to the sinking was when two areas of the ship flooded, causing loss of stability and loss of containers before the ship sank.

"Just to imagine what it was like in such a storm, with 30- to 50-foot swells, certainly with the vent holes on the side of the ship, and the possibility of some of those openings not being completely watertight," Green said. "There are certain conditions that we should not sail into. If nothing else comes of this, we should have a hard line of how we sail."