Capt. of El Faro's sister ship shared hurricane forecast

Jacksonville-based cargo ship sank in Caribbean during Hurricane Joaquin

By Chris Parenteau - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As El Faro sailed from Jacksonville toward Puerto Rico on what would be its final voyage, it passed its sister ship El Yunque returning to JaxPort.  

On Tuesday, the captain of the El Yunque told the U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board that he trusted the judgment of El Faro's captain. 

Capt. Kevin Stith said he had sailed multiple times as chief mate on El Faro under Capt. Michael Davidson. 

Stith testified that he noticed the forecasts for Hurricane Joaquin were wrong and he sped up to avoid the storm. He said he also he contacted El Faro to let him know the conditions El Yunque was experiencing and ask about Davidson's plan was to avoid the storm.

"I trusted Capt. Davidson’s experience, especially on this route, and I knew somewhat of his background from talking to him in different situations he encountered," Stith said.

WATCH: El Faro hearings

Stith said Davidson emailed him back saying he was aware of Joaquin in the Caribbean and that he already planned to alter his course south from the normal path. Davidson said his calculations had him passing 65 nautical miles from Joaquin.

"I felt that if he had a solid plan, that it was well thought-out and he had considered everything," Stith said. "I thought that if he had a plan, it was appropriate."

The board asked Stith about his voyage with Davidson in August during Tropical Storm Erika. Stith said that from the time of departure, he advised the crew to prepare for heavy weather during the trip and secure their rooms.

The El Faro sank on Oct. 1 near the Bahamas.

 

The marine board is on its second week of hearings at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville. 

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