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Searchers have found wreckage they believe is the El Faro, a cargo ship that sunk amid hurricane Joaquin in October.
The U.S. Navy ship Apache using side-scanning sonar found what could be the wreckage in about 15,000 feet of water at around 1:36 p.m. Saturday, the National Transportation Safety Board said.
The El Faro went missing on Oct. 1 about 35 miles northeast of Crooked Island in the Bahamas, as it was making a trip from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The crew reported that the ship lost power and had taken on water before contact was lost.
The Navy will use a remotely operated deep ocean vehicle to confirm whether the images picked up by the Apache are those of the sunken 790-foot vessel. Thirty-three crew members, 28 of them Americans, were on board.
The sonar images indicate the sunken ship may be upright and in one piece, the NTSB said.
If the wreckage is the El Faro, the deep ocean vehicle, CURV-21, will take video of the wreckage and debris field as part of an attempt to recover the voyage data recorder — which could provide valuable clues as to what happened aboard the ship before it sank, the NTSB said. That process could take up to 15 days, or longer depending on the weather.
An Orion side-scanning sonar system captured the images after another device, a towed pinger locator, failed to find a signal after three days, the NTSB said.
When the El Faro left Jacksonville on Sept. 29, Joaquin was a tropical storm. By the time the ship lost contact the storm was a category 4 hurricane.
This week the family of one of the mariners on board the El Faro filed a lawsuit against the ship’s owners. The suit alleges the El Faro "had a history of losing power while under voyage and during hurricanes." The family of another crew member on board has also filed a lawsuit.
The CURV-21 is an 8-feet-long, 6,400-lb. deep ocean salvage vehicle that can operate at a depth of up to 20,000 feet, according to the Navy.