Families of the Americans whose ship went missing during Hurricane Joaquin expressed gratitude Saturday to the U.S. Coast Guard, and hoped a break in the weather might help bring their loved ones home.
The El Faro, a cargo ship, was last heard from Thursday around 7:20 a.m. ET when it sent a distress call indicating it had lost power and was taking on water. It was bound for San Juan in Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida.
The families were holding out hope that the ship would be located, even though there had been no communication since the distress call.
"The Coast Guard has just worked tirelessly and putting their own lives in their hands to try to find our loved ones, and I truly appreciate that," said Deb Roberts, the mother of El Faro engineer Michael Holland.
The 735-foot vessel was carrying 28 Americans and five Polish nationals. On Saturday, Joaquin strengthened back to a Category 4, but distanced itself from the search area. In the crew's last contact, they said all flooding had been contained.
"I’m so thankful that the storm is finally moving out so that they can safely and be able to visibly see the ship and be able to rescue or pull the ship back to shore," Roberts said. "Whatever they need to do to bring our families back to us."
Around 850 square nautical miles were searched on Friday. The effort resumed at dawn Saturday but search efforts were being hampered by 20- to 30-foot swells, the Coast guard said.
Hurricane Joaquin was around 500 miles southwest of Bermuda and had maximum sustained winds of 150 mph as it moved northeast at 17 mph as of 5 p.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.
The mother of another American on the ship said her daughter always dreamed of working on the water.
Danielle Randolph, 34, is from Rockland, Maine, said her mother, Laurie Bobillot.
"She is usually the only female aboard the ship, but even though she is a short little girl she can handle her own well," Bobillot said in a statement. "When she's home, she's all girlie girl. She's an avid Barbie doll collector and loves to dress up retro style, shop, and bake. Ever since an extremely young age, she wanted to work on the ocean."
Officials with the company that owns the ship said they were working closely with the Coast Guard.