Coast Guard suspends search for El Faro crew

Cargo ship believed to have sunk Thursday as it entered path of Hurricane Joaquin

MIAMI – The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for the missing El Faro crew members at sunset Wednesday.

"Any decision to suspend a search is painful, and this particular case, we were searching for fellow professional mariners," Capt. Mark Fedor said, noting that the incident was personal to many people in the Coast Guard, especially since a chief petty officer's brother was on the cargo ship.

The Coast Guard 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.

"I know the Coast Guard, along with our brethren in the Navy and Air Force, as well as commercial tugs, did all they good in this search effort," Fedor said, adding that he hopes the families of the crew members find some sort of "small measure of peace from that."

Crew members from Florida included Keith Griffin, whose wife is expecting twins. Griffin, Jeremy Riehm and Steven Shultz were from southwest Florida. Larry Davis was from Jacksonville.

Fedor said officials believe the 735-foot cargo ship sunk while it was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

One body was found this week inside a survival suit.

Fedor said the ship left the night of Sept. 26 and that if the crew members abandoned ship Thursday, they would have encountered Category 4 hurricane-force conditions.

When asked if he thought the Coast Guard was quitting their search for survivors too soon, the uncle of El Faro crew member Shaun Rivera said, "I choose not to answer that question right now. I just ask that anyone who sees this will pray for the families that have loved ones. And pray for change. "

"My hope, my only hope, is that this will bring change to the entire maritime industry," Barry Young added. "That things such as this will never happen again."

National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Dr. Bella Dinh-Zarr said the agency expects to have crews at the scene of where the ship is believed to have sunk for the next seven to 10 days, but said they "will be there for as long as it takes."

"I want to emphasize that we are still early in our investigation," Dinh-Zarr said. "Our objective is not only to find out what happened but why it happened."

Dinh-Zarr said remotely operated underwater vehicles will be used to try to locate the data recorder from the ship.

She said the recorder would have basic navigation information, such as speed.

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