TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The National Transportation Safety Board is sending a team of investigators back to where El Faro sank in the Atlantic Ocean to search for the cargo ship's missing data recorder.
The decision came less than a month after Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sent a letter to the head of the agency, asking that the NTSB consider another search.
Nelson, who is the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees the NTSB, applauded the announcement Thursday afternoon on the Senate floor.
“This voyage data recorder, it's a key piece to understanding since we have no survivors, it's a key piece to getting the information to understand this puzzle of why that ship would sail right into the hurricane," Nelson said. "It records and it stores all of the ship's communications. And so finding it would shed light on what really happened on board in those final hours."
The 790-foot freighter El Faro is believed to have sunk Oct. 1 after losing engine power and getting caught in a hurricane while sailing from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Thirty-three mariners were aboard, and some of their families have filed lawsuits against TOTE claiming negligence on the part of the company.
Each of the families will receive $500,000 in a settlement with TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico.
"It's a critical step in our understanding of what went so tragically wrong that day," Nelson said. "We owe it not only to the families of the lost mariners aboard the El Faro, but to the future safety of all those who travel on the high seas."