On Air Now

Listen Now


H 72° L 41°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 72° L 41°
  • clear-night
    Clear. H 72° L 41°
  • clear-day
    Mostly Sunny. H 54° L 37°

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

El Faro-inspired  bill to improve safety at sea heads to the President

El Faro-inspired bill to improve safety at sea heads to the President

El Faro-inspired  bill to improve safety at sea heads to the President
Photo Credit: Stephanie Brown

El Faro-inspired bill to improve safety at sea heads to the President

Targeting problems raised by the sinking of Jacksonville-based cargo ship El Faro, the President will now consider a bill on maritime safety. 

The Senate passed the measure on Wednesday, and the House adopted it Thursday.

This comes nearly three years after the ship sank in Hurricane Joaquin, killing all 33 people on board. El Faro was heavily loaded, when it started taking on water while traveling between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico. Federal investigators have concluded the ship over-corrected in its effort to balance a list and lost lube oil suction as a result. Without propulsion, with a substantial list, and dealing with the conditions around this major hurricane, the ship sank. 

GALLERY: Tributes to the El Faro crew

AUDIO: El Faro’s Captain describes “marine emergency”

Both the NTSB and a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation examined the sinking, and faulted decision making by the Captain, in bringing the ship too close to the storm, as a primary reason for the sinking. The attorney for the Captain's widow has disputed those findings. There were many contributing factors identified by investigators as well, though, including not detecting longstanding deficiencies in inspections and insufficient safety management systems on board. The reports from both of those federal investigative bodies have led to this legislation, which is known as the “Hamm Alert Maritime Safety Act of 2018”, after one of the men who died in the sinking, and his family, who fought for the changes. 

FULL COVERAGE: The sinking of El Faro

Among the changes, the legislation requires the Commandant of the Coast Guard enter negotiations to amend international standards to require freight vessels be outfitted with high-water alarm sensors and float-free Voyage Data Recorders with emergency position indicating radio beacons. This addresses two concerns raised by federal investigators. First, the high-water alarm sensors will give the bridge a better awareness of water getting on board, because the sensor would be connected to both audible and visual alarms on the bridge. Second, a float-free VDR with an EPIRB will ideally be able to be more easily located and retrieved. It took two missions to find El Faro’s VDR, and a third to recover it from the wreckage on the ocean floor. Analysis of the more than 26 hours of data captured on the VDR proved to be invaluable in piecing together the final hours on board. 


IN DEPTH: Additional portions of El Faro’s VDR

The Commandant will also conduct a cost-benefit analysis of requiring VDRs capture internal telephone communication. For El Faro, the VDR only recorded sound on the bridge, so while it captured a substantial amount of audio, there is no documentation of what crew members were saying while speaking to someone on the bridge, if they weren’t on the bridge themselves. 

GALLERY: El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder

To make it easier for a ship’s crew to anonymously report potential safety issues on board, this bill establishes an anonymous safety alert pilot program with a direct line of communication to the Coast Guard. With El Faro, there were questions raised on whether issues could be truly anonymously reported to the ship’s owner and operator, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services, because the phone was on the bridge and emails were not done on private computers. 

There are more requirements on timely and detailed weather forecasts in this bill- areas where the NTSB sought action before their investigation had even concluded. The main weather system used on El Faro, Bon Voyage System, had a duplicated hurricane forecast track that the ship used to track Hurricane Joaquin’s path in the hours ahead of the sinking. It also took hours for the forecast data to be processed and sent to the ship, through that system. The National Hurricane Center further said Hurricane Joaquin was an especially difficult storm to forecast. The bill doesn’t specify what the changes will look like, but generally requires ships get “timely synoptic and graphical chart weather forecasts” and timely advisories, when available. 

The Coast Guard will be ordered to conduct a review on openings, stability standards, and lifesaving equipment, through the bill. The investigations on this sinking showed some openings on the ship were used both as water-tight and weather-tight, which could have made them vulnerable points for taking on water. While it’s not believed by investigators that the crew would have been able to survive, even if they abandoned ship, they say the best chance for that would have been if the crew had enclosed lifeboats, as opposed to the open design allowed on El Faro, because of her age. Lifeboats are not explicitly addressed in the bill, but rather a review of “lifesaving equipment for mariners, including survival suits and life jackets”. 

There is another provision in the bill requiring search-and-rescue units procure equipment to mark any item that can’t be immediately retrieved with a radio or Automated Identification System beacon. The SAR operations after the sinking of El Faro located one body, but the remains were not immediately recovered, because crews had to go investigate a report of a waving survival suit, meaning a possible survivor. That survival suit was not located, and the beacon that was left on the remains did not work, and the crew was not able to locate the remains again. A SAR representative admitted during the investigation that those beacons were often faulty, but he said they were already in the process of upgrading. 

GALLERY: El Faro’s wreckage

The Coast Guard is also being ordered to review the documentation of “major conversions”. Some conversion work on El Faro was not classified as a “major conversion”, although investigators have since said it should have been. If it got that designation, the ship would have been required to adopt more modern standards, including with the type of lifeboats it had. 

Another area that saw substantial review under these investigations is the Alternate Compliance Program, which is the inspection protocol that El Faro was under and that’s still being used on commercial vessels currently. It allows alternate classification societies to do survey work on behalf of the Coast Guard, to eliminate the duplication of their inspections. The investigations in to this sinking showed the Coast Guard had become reliant on the ACS’s because of a shortage in their own resources and experience. Further, it was concluded that there was not proper oversight of this program by the Coast Guard, and that the ACS’s were not always operating as expected under the program in terms of the thoroughness of the surveys and experience of the surveyors. This bill will require improved training programs for the Coast Guard, relating to their oversight of ACP and third-party organizations. Another problem with ACP is the gaps between Coast Guard and ACS rules. That was previously addressed through a “Supplement”, but that was often lagging in updates, and there may be several different ones in place. This legislation would move toward one unified Supplement. 

The legislation further is requiring an audit of safety management systems, to ensure ships are safe at sea. A portion of safety management required everyone have a full and working knowledge of safety procedures on board, but testimony showed that Polish riding crew members who were on El Faro working to convert her for the Alaskan trade may not have received the full safety training required.

There will also be more training for steamship inspections and advanced journeyman inspectors.

GALLERY:Photos from the NTSB’s investigation of the El Faro sinking

Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who co-sponsored the bill in the Senate, says the bill is designed to prevent a tragedy like this sinking from happening again. 

“The families of the El Faro crew deserve much of the credit for getting many of these potentially lifesaving measures through Congress,” he says. 

The House previously passed a bill that came from its own Committee work, but Nelson’s office says the Senate’s version is broader in addressing recommendations from both the NTSB and Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation. It is the Senate’s version that was ultimately adopted in the House as well, and sent to the President’s desk.

The bill text says, in 2017, there were more than 21,000 deficiencies issued to US commercial vessels, and “no sail” orders were issued to 2,500 US vessels- showing that this problem goes beyond the El Faro.

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • The Jacksonville Humane Society and Animal Care and Protective Services announced the city of Jacksonville, once again, earned the no-kill designation for the year of 2019. According to Best Friends Animal Society, “A no-kill community is a city or town in which every brick-and-mortar shelter serving and/or located within that community has reached a 90% save rate or higher and adheres to the no-kill philosophy, saving every animal who can be saved.'  According to a release put out by the JHS, the save rate for APCS was 90 percent and for JHS it was 95 percent, making a citywide save rate of 93 percent.  In total, 16,874 animals entered the JHS shelters in 2019, which is a significant decrease from 19,366 animals in 2018, according to the JHS.  According to JHS, Jacksonville earned the distinction of being the largest city in the United States to earn a no-kill status. The city has maintained that status until last year when ACPS save rate fell to 86 percent.  “Examining the data and trends in 2017 and 2018 resulted in our renewed focus on cats and kittens in 2019,” said Deisler. “As a community, we had to take a look at ourselves ask – what can we do to save those lives? We knew that with the help of our community, a return to no-kill was possible. We are excited about the results from 2019 and even more excited for 2020. Thank you, Jacksonville!”
  • Thirty-nine years after three Florida Highway Patrol troopers were killed in a plane crash, the state is honoring their sacrifice with a roadway designation. On July 13, 1981, Cpl. Cleo “Tommy” Tomlinsons, Trooper Merle Cook and Trooper Robert Pruitt were in an airplane that crashed in St. Johns County while assisting in the search for two suspects wanted for breaking and entering.  “We had received a call requesting assistance from the Sheriff’s Office on some burglary suspects they were trying to track,” retired FHP Trooper Rick McIntyre said.  McIntyre said it happened on a Monday. He dropped off his co-worker and friend, Tomlinson, at the airport so he could help search the wooded area. On his way back to assist on foot, he witnessed the horrific plane crash.  “A person goes into shock when they see something like that,” McIntyre said. “At the time, I had less than five years on the patrol and it was something horrible to witness.”  As the calls went out over the service radio, Tomlinson’s son was on the receiving end. He was in training to become a trooper.  “I can remember every detail about that day,” Tomlinson’s son and retired FHP trooper Chet Tomlinson said. “That day I was in recruit training at Parris Island.”  That day, three families lost a husband and father. The community lost three troopers who were protecting their homes.  Now, almost four decades after the crash, family members said they are thankful that their fathers’ sacrifices have not been forgotten.  “Hopefully the people and the citizens of the state of Florida understand the sacrifice the officers make each and every day when they walk out the door,” Tomlinson said.  Of the 48 FHP troopers who have died in the line of duty, fewer than half have received a roadway designation.  The sign, which includes all three troopers, is on U.S. Route 1 and stretch about 5 miles long. The FHP said it is in dedication of their sacrifice and a reminder for drivers to stay alert while on the road.
  • Dozens of strangers showed up Friday afternoon at the Jacksonville National Cemetery to make sure a local homeless veteran got the proper burial he deserved. Many of the people attending didn’t know John Meade Jr. was a veteran when he was alive. But they wanted to honor him properly, now that he’s gone.  “He was very much appreciated, and we all appreciate the service that he did. Not only for everybody else, but what he stood for,” said Shirley Greco, who attended the ceremony.  He had a lot of family at his funeral – maybe not in blood, but in spirit.  “I really do wish that he could be here to see the turnout today for him, I really do. And I think there’s a way that he knows how it turned out today,” Greco said.  “Whoever the vet is, doesn’t get buried with no family, so we become their family,” said Wayne May.  For at least 10 years, Meade sat on a bench in downtown St. Augustine every single day, and was a friendly face to everyone who passed by.  While he talked to everybody, no one knew much about him.  After Meade died, an officer with the St. Augustine Police Department spent 80 hours digging for information about him.  When the officer found out he served in the Army, he wanted Meade to have a proper burial. He asked the community to come out to Jacksonville’s National Cemetery, and they showed up by the dozens.  “People did care about him, and he’s never alone,” said Ken White, a veteran.  “I wish I would’ve known him,” another veteran said.
  • McKenzie Adams was 9 years old when she took her own life on Dec. 3, 2018, in her Linden, Alabama, home. A federal lawsuit filed Thursday by her family alleges that administrators and teachers at her elementary school, U.S. Jones Elementary in Demopolis, failed to protect her from incessant bullying. Demopolis is located in west Alabama, about 60 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa. “(The defendants) exhibited deliberate and blatant indifference to the wrongful persistent bullying and harassment, rife with racial and gender-based slurs, imparted upon McKenzie by a boy who was her classmate,” the lawsuit states. Linden and Demopolis police officials investigated the allegations of bullying in the wake of McKenzie’s hanging death but said they could not find the evidence to back up the family’s claims. The school also denied the allegations that bullying had been reported to administrators by the girl or her family. “We have concluded our internal investigation to the allegations of bullying which led to this senseless death. There have been no findings of any reports of bullying by either the student or family,” a Dec. 11, 2018, statement from the school district said, according to the Tuscaloosa News. “The findings of this internal investigation are consistent with the results of the investigation of the Linden Police Department at this point in time.” McKenzie’s family begged police to reopen the investigation. Her mother and grandmother are adamant that the bullying was reported to school officials multiple times. “Her case deserves a second look,” her weeping mother, Jasmine Adams, said at a news conference last January, according to WBRC in Birmingham. “There are things that could have been missed on the first go-round. And I just feel she deserves a second look at her case.” Hundreds of mourners attended the girl’s funeral, which was held in the gymnasium of her school. According to the News, a wreath of flowers spelling out “You are loved, little one” stood near her white casket. McKenzie, who family members said hoped to be a scientist when she grew up, wore a silver tiara as she was laid to rest. McKenzie’s mother and grandmother, Janice Adams, filed Thursday’s lawsuit on behalf of the girl, whose death made national headlines. Named in the lawsuit are the school, the Demopolis school system, Superintendent Kyle Kallhoff, then-U.S. Jones principal Tori Infinger, then-assistant principal Tracy Stewart and fourth-grade teacher Gloria Mims. Infinger resigned in April 2019, according to the Demopolis Times. It was not immediately clear Friday where Stewart is currently employed, but Mims remains listed as a teacher on the U.S. Jones website. “The Demopolis City Board of Education has only recently learned of a lawsuit filed against them on behalf of McKenzie Adams,” the school system’s attorney, Alex Braswell, said in a statement obtained by WSFA in Montgomery. “While we are not permitted to discuss pending litigation, the Demopolis Board of Education can say that we look forward to defending this case and dispelling the allegations made therein.” ‘Tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it’ The lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, alleges that McKenzie, who was enrolled at U.S. Jones Elementary for the 2018-2019 school year, was “targeted and taunted” by a white 9-year-old in her class, who called her the N-word and an “ugly a** bit**.” The abuse took place both in the classroom and in the school gym, her family claims. “According to information and belief, on Oct. 24, 2018, (the boy) passed a note to McKenzie in which he called her a “bit**” while in the classroom of defendant Mims,” the lawsuit states. He also used sexually explicit terms in the note. The Adams family believes the abuse stemmed from the fact that McKenzie went to and from school with a white friend and the friend’s mother. McKenzie wrote in her diary Nov. 5, 2018, that two boys at school had been bullying her, the suit alleges. “Upon information and belief, on the date of her death, Dec. 3, 2018, (the boy) told McKenzie to kill herself, told her that she was better off dead, and instructed her on the manner to take her own life,” the lawsuit says. McKenzie’s mother and grandmother say Mims, who was McKenzie’s math teacher at the time of her death, was aware but “deliberately indifferent” to the bullying taking place. Janice Adams, the girl’s grandmother, attempted in August 2018 to set up a meeting with Mims to discuss the ongoing abuse. “Plaintiff Janice Adams never received a return call from Mims,” the suit states. She tried again in September to set up a meeting to discuss the abuse and what it was doing to McKenzie’s “state of mind.” “On Oct. 1, 2018, she received a generic notice that there was no need for a parent-teacher conference,” the lawsuit says. Progress reports came out that month, and McKenzie’s report indicated she was failing math, the class Mims taught. Ordinarily, her family told media outlets, McKenzie excelled in math. “Plaintiff Janice Adams was aware that McKenzie was struggling in the course due to emotional challenges resulting from the bullying and harassment that McKenzie was experiencing in her class,” the complaint said. “Concerned about McKenzie’s state of mind, plaintiff Janice Adams went to Mims’ classroom on Oct. 12, 2018, to request a meeting with Mims. “At that time, Plaintiff Janice Adams identified (the alleged bully), informed Mims that McKenzie was being bullied by him, and asked that the school address the bullying. Plaintiff Janice Adams left her contact information for a follow-up meeting. Mims failed to call her back.” The lawsuit states that Infinger was present for the meeting and was made aware of the supposed bullying going on in Mims’ classroom. Janice Adams claims the principal failed to act. On Oct. 24, Mims obtained the harassing note the boy passed McKenzie in class. Mims contacted the girl’s grandmother and told her that, instead of disciplining the boy, McKenzie would be disciplined for responding to the bullying, the lawsuit states. Talking to law enforcement officials later, Mims admitted that there were two boys, including the one indicated in the lawsuit, who “bothered” everyone in the class, the court document says. Mims told police the boy was “often jumping around and striking other children.” She called him a “clown” and said the boy was always in trouble. Despite his behavior, the lawsuit alleges, no action was taken to discipline the boy for his harassment of McKenzie. McKenzie complained to the teacher multiple times about the bullying. “Upon information and belief, on numerous occasions, Mims instructed McKenzie to ‘tell it to the wall because I do not want to hear it,’” the lawsuit states. Read the entire federal lawsuit filed on behalf of McKenzie Adams below.  The lawsuit alleges that Mims admitted to law enforcement that she was aware that the boy was engaged in conduct defined as bullying by Demopolis City Schools, that he specifically targeted McKenzie and that McKenzie’s family was concerned about the emotional impact the bullying had on the girl. “Upon information and belief, Mims was aware that one risk factor for suicidal ideation was bullying,” the suit says. The complaint states that Mims violated school and district policy by failing to notify Infinger, the principal, or the central office of the first instance of bullying. She also failed to inform them of the continual bullying and failed to take action on her own to stop the harassment, the document says. “Defendant’s deliberate indifference created a dangerous environment and barred McKenzie’s access to a safe learning environment. As the direct result of Mims’ conduct, McKenzie committed suicide,” the lawsuit alleges. The lawsuit also blames Infinger’s lack of action for the girl’s death. It states she had actual knowledge of the behavior toward McKenzie and failed to train teachers and administrators on gender- and race-specific bullying. Stewart is named in the lawsuit because McKenzie’s family alleges that Mims gave the harassing note of Oct. 24, 2018, to the assistant principal and she did nothing to stop the bullying. “Stewart contacted McKenzie’s family on Oct. 25, 2018, regarding the note,” the lawsuit states. “At that time, plaintiff Janice Adams informed Stewart that McKenzie was being bullied and had been bullied since the commencement of the school year.” Stewart informed Adams that McKenzie would be punished for responding to the note. It was not clear in the filing what the girl’s response was. “Following the phone call with plaintiff Janice Adams, Stewart spoke on a three-way phone call with plaintiff Janice Adams and McKenzie’s mother, plaintiff Jasmine Adams, to discuss McKenzie’s discipline regarding the note,” according to the lawsuit. “Plaintiff Jasmine Adams expressed concern about the bullying, the harassment and the fact that McKenzie was being disciplined by U.S. Jones.” The distraught mother informed Stewart that she planned to contact the State Department about the persistent bullying and harassment. “Stewart asked plaintiff Jasmine Adams not to contact the State Department and stated that U.S. Jones would handle the matter,” the suit says. “However, U.S. Jones did not handle the matter.” The lawsuit alleges that the school system did not adhere to state and federal anti-bullying measures. It claims that all the defendants named in the complaint had participated in the Jason Flatt Suicide Prevention Program, a program by The Jason Foundation designed to provide professional development for teachers and youth workers so they can better identify children at risk for suicide. The foundation was created in 1997 by Clark Flatt after his 16-year-old son, Jason Flatt, died by suicide. The lawsuit also claims the school and district failed to comply with the Jamari Terrell Williams Bullying Prevention Act, which AL.com reported was enacted to strengthen the state’s 2009 anti-harassment law. The act requires schools to define, control, report and stop bullying. The act is named after 10-year-old Jamari Williams, a gifted Montgomery dancer and honor roll student who took his own life Oct. 11, 2017, after being bullied for “being different,” according to the website for a foundation set up in his name. The federal lawsuit in McKenzie’s death accuses the district of violating Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits harassment based on gender, as well as Title VI, which prohibits discrimination based on race. The lawsuit also accuses the school system of denying Adams equal protection under the 14th Amendment. It asks for compensatory damages “in an amount that will fully compensate McKenzie and her family for all they suffered” and such punitive damages that would “properly punish them for the constitutional, statutory and common law violations perpetrated upon McKenzie as alleged herein, in an amount that will serve as a deterrent to defendants and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future.” Since McKenzie’s death, her aunt, Eddwina Harris, has been working to kickstart an anti-bullying organization called the McKenzie Foundation. A GoFundMe page set up to collect donations has raised $12,830 of its $20,000 goal. A large portion of the work of the McKenzie Foundation appears to be public speaking on the dangers of bullying. “If you knew your child was at a place where there was a ticking time bomb, you would come and get them out,” Eddwina Harris told the News following her niece’s funeral. “The time is now to get them out of a dangerous situation.” As for the national publicity McKenzie’s death received, Harris said she believed it would do some good in the wake of tragedy. “It’s touching that one little 9-year-old girl has changed the lives and minds of so many people and it’s going to stick with us for the rest of our lives,” she said.
  • Two months after a young mother was found shot to death in a southside apartment off Gate Parkway, Jacksonville Police have announced an arrest.  Police obtained an arrest warrant on Thursday for 23-year-old Keeshawn Glover for charges of second degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. 24-year-old Felisia Williams was found dead in her home at the Gardens of Bridge Hampton Apartments near Belfort Road.  Family and friends say Williams had a 4-year-old daughter.  According to JSO, Williams and Glover knew each other, but they did not elaborate on their relationship.  

The Latest News Videos