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Former El Faro sailor questions ship's safety

Ship's owner disagrees with testimony

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A former crew member of a cargo ship that sank after losing propulsion in a hurricane questioned why the ship's owner didn't do more to protect the crew.

The Florida Times-Union reports that former able seaman Marvin Hearman III testified Tuesday before the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation.

The El Faro sank Oct. 1, 2015, while traveling from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. All 33 aboard died.

Hearman testified that TOTE Services Inc. managers often called the ship to tell captains to slow down and conserve fuel, but didn't call to warn the crew they were headed into a strong hurricane.

In a statement, TOTE spokesman Darrell Wilson said the company disagrees strongly with Hearman's testimony and is committed to supporting the lost sailors' families.

"While we appreciate Mr. Hearman participating in the investigation, we strongly disagree with his testimony.

There have been many expert witnesses from the Coast Guard, ABS, TOTE, past crew members and other industry experts who have already testified under oath and their testimony contradicts Mr. Hearman's opinions.

TOTE remains committed to supporting the families and cooperating with the investigation process."

Testimony continues Wednesday and is scheduled to conclude on Friday.