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Coast Guard finds life ring as search for cargo ship continues

33 crew members missing at sea

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MIAMI – As the search continues for a cargo ship lost at sea after becoming caught in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, the U.S. Coast Guard said Saturday it found a life ring within a search area.

On Sunday, two more life rings were found.

Members of the Coast Guard 7th District were updated Saturday on the search for the El Faro and its 33 crew members. Aircrews were once again deployed to look for the 790-foot roll on, roll off ship at daybreak.

"Today, we've had four aircraft, including two helicopters, in the air," Coast Guard Petty Officer David Schulein said.

Photo provided by 7th Coast Guard District
Photo provided by 7th Coast Guard District

The ship left Jacksonville and was scheduled to arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Friday morning. Early Thursday morning, crews aboard the El Faro reported the ship had lost propulsion and had taken on water, though it was contained.

The ship was believed to have been near Crooked Island, Bahamas at the time it lost communication. As of early Saturday, all watches and warnings for the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands had been discontinued.

More than 850 square nautical miles were searched Friday, though hurricane force winds and high swells hampered the efforts. A HC-130 Hercules fixed-wing aircraft was deployed early Saturday to resume the search.

A Coast Guard HC-130 search and rescue crew spotted a life ring in the water late Saturday belonging to the missing ship.

The Coast Guard isn't searching alone. It is also getting help from the Navy and Air Force Hurricane Hunters.

"Have some assistance from the U.S. Air Force yesterday. Their Hurricane Hunters were there specifically for the hurricane, were helping us gain communication with the El Faro," a Coast Guard official said.

The ship is run by Tote Services. Its president, Phil Green, met with family members of the missing crew Friday at the Seafarers Union Hall in Jacksonville.

"There's a strong sense of family, of closeness," Green said.

Some family members were visibly distraught. Others Saturday night were not giving up hope.

"We all need prayers. We're waiting. Everybody's waiting. That's all you can do," said Terry Davis, wife of a missing crew member. "Mother Nature does what Mother Nature does, and if you can't get in there to find them, then you can't get in there to find them."

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