Carnival cruise ship spots El Faro debris, passengers say

Coast Guard finds 1 crew member dead in survival suit

MIAMI – Crew members aboard the Carnival Conquest, which is headed to Grand Turk Island, spotted debris believed to be from a missing cargo ship that disappeared last week in the path of Hurricane Joaquin, multiple passengers told Local 10 News.

According to passenger Linda Vazquez, two announcements were made Monday night notifying passengers that the ship was slowing down because there was a sighting of debris from El Faro.

Vazquez said some passengers said they could see debris in the water.

"The ship came across some debris and this information was reported to (the) U.S. Coast Guard, but we are not aware of any confirmation that the debris belonged to the El Faro ship," Carnival Cruise Lines spokesman Vance Gulliksen told Local 10.

Coast Guard officials said they have not determined whether the debris spotted from the Carnival ship belongs to El Faro.

Earlier Monday, the Coast Guard said it believed that the 735-foot cargo ship, which was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, had sunk.

A body was found inside a survival suit.

Capt. Mark Fedor said he believes that any possible survivors would have drifted to the north. The area where the ship is believed to have sunk was 15,000 feet deep.

Fedor said 28 of the 33 crew members are U.S. citizens, and five others are Polish nationals.

The Coast Guard has searched a total of 172,257-square-nautical-miles in the vicinity of the ship's last known position, about 35 miles northeast of Crooked Islands, Bahamas.

On Tuesday, the public learned more about the people aboard El Faro, including Keith Griffin, whose wife is expecting twins. Griffin, Jeremy Riehm and Steven Shultz were from southwest Florida. Larry Davis was from Jacksonville.

The mother of another crew member, Mariette Wright, spoke to the media Tuesday.

"She loved the sea. She couldn't live without being on the sea," Mary Shevory said.

Shevory said she and the families of the other victims are hoping for a miracle.

"We cry together, we wail and scream and pray," she said.

Among items found in a 225-square-mile debris field Monday were a heavily damaged life boat, life vests, Styrofoam and wood, among other items.

Fedor said that if the crew members abandoned ship Thursday, they would have encountered Category 4-force conditions.

"When the ship sailed on Tuesday evening, the storm was nowhere near what is was at the time that the vessel became disabled," TOTE Marine CEO Anthony Chiarello said during a news conference Monday night.

Chiarello also maintained that the captain of the cargo ship was not under any pressure to make the delivery despite the storm.

"There is no schedule that is more important to keep that would in any way endanger the lives of our crew members or employees," Chiarello said.

The Coast Guard continues to search for survivors, but hopes are fading as more time passes.

"As each hour goes by that we don't find someone alive ... the situation does become more dire," Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss said.

Follow Local 10 News on Twitter @WPLGLocal10

About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for