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The voyage data recorder from El Faro was retrieved late Monday from the ocean floor, 10 months after the U.S.-flagged cargo ship sank, federal authorities said.
Investigators are hoping the recorder, which records GPS data and communications between crew members, will give them insight into the final hours of the doomed ship before it went down during Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015, killing all 33 of the ship's crew.
“The recovery of the recorder has the potential to give our investigators greater insight into the incredible challenges that the El Faro crew faced,” Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, said in a statement. “But it’s just one component of a very complex investigation."
This was the NTSB's second mission to reach the data recorder, which was mounted on the ship's mast. A research vessel, Atlantis, located it, but officials determined they would need specialized deep-water salvage equipment to recover it.
Technicians on Monday used a deep-ocean, 6,400-pound remotely operated vehicle to descend 15,000 feet to where El Faro's wreckage sits — about 41 miles northeast of the Bahamas.
The NTSB said it doesn't know how long it will take to review the information on the recorder.
The 790-foot ship was traveling from its home port of Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. When it departed on Sept. 29, Joaquin was only a tropical storm — but by the time system moved into El Faro's path, it had grown into a Category 4 hurricane.