'It's like I'm reliving it': Widow of El Faro member reflects on ship rescue

Rochelle Hamm's husband died when El Faro sank in 2015

By Joy Purdy - 5:30, 6:30 & 11 p.m. anchor

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - Scores of people waited on the St. Simons Pier, watching rescuers as they painstakingly worked to reach the four crew members who were trapped for hours aboard the capsized Golden Ray cargo ship, and among them was a woman who knows too well the emotion everyone was feeling.

Rochelle Hamm's husband was aboard the El Faro cargo ship, which sank in 2015 after it sailed into the path of Hurricane Joaquin after leaving Jacksonville en route to Puerto Rico.

"It's very difficult to see this. When I heard about it and saw on the news, I was like, 'Oh my God,'" Hamm said.

When News4Jax found Hamm on the pier, she couldn't stop starting at the overturned ship as rescuers worked to reach the four crew members who were trapped inside. Hamm reflected on her husband's death while he was aboard El Faro.

"It's like I'm reliving it," Hamm said. "I'm glad they're in an area like this where people can get to them quickly as they're able to."

Hamm's husband Frank was among the 33 crew members who died aboard El Faro.

During the harrowing rescues, Hamm said she was expecting a happy ending.

"My faith tells me that," she said. "I was wrestling last night and I said, "They're going to get them out of there."

Since her husband's death, Hamm started a nonprofit organization called Hamm Alert, fighting for seamen's safety and supporting other mariner families. Her efforts were honored in the Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act of 2018, signed by President Trump, which adopted many of the recommended safety improvements made by the NTSB and the Coast Guard.

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