H 66° L 45°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Clear. H 66° L 45°
  • clear-night
    Clear. H 66° L 45°
  • clear-day
    Sunny. H 67° L 46°

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

'It's more powerful than we thought': El Faro's 'black box' transcript released

'It's more powerful than we thought': El Faro's 'black box' transcript released

'It's more powerful than we thought': El Faro's 'black box' transcript released
Photo Credit: NTSB

'It's more powerful than we thought': El Faro's 'black box' transcript released

“I’m not leavin’ you let’s go”.

It’s some of the final moments captured by El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder, or ‘black box’, where the Captain tells a crewman not to freeze and that the crew member needs to move. It comes after the ship’s alarm was sounded, and there was a call to get life rafts in the water and to abandon ship.

For the first time, we’re now learning about the 26 hours of data captured on the device ahead of the ship sinking in Hurricane Joaquin. The NTSB determined ten hours of the audio to be pertinent to their investigation, and the transcript is the longest one ever issued by the agency.

It’s been more than a year since the NTSB opened their investigation in to the ship’s sinking. Information released until now- including the Master’s final shoreside communications- show El Faro had lost propulsion and taken on water before going down, killing all 33 people on board. It took three missions to find and ultimately recover the VDR, which captured recordings from the bridge as well as other information about weather, navigation, and more.

FULL COVERAGE: El Faro sinking

Tuesday, the NTSB opened the public docket on their investigation, which included- for the first time- releasing the information learned from the VDR. WOKV worked through the entire 510 page report to bring you all of the new information.

Outdated weather information impacts course changes

The NTSB confirms the VDR recording stopped at the time of the ship’s sinking. It’s believed the Captain and one other crew member were on the bridge at the time.

Conversations indicated the crew did not believe they had accurate wind data, and the data from the anemometer was- in fact- inaccurate, according to NTSB.

The NTSB also said that data which the ship received through a special system called the Bon Voyage System is, by nature, six hours old because of how the weather data is processed and mapped out by the system. We’ve previously confirmed through a Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation, however, that the data El Faro had the day ahead of the sinking was about 21 hours outdated, because the ship had received some duplicated data. The conversations confirm the Captain spoke about conflicting information while on the bridge and the crew was frustrated with the inconsistent data. There was another system on board that provided more up to date information, but needed to be manually plotted.

The VDR captured one conversation where the Captain altered the course of the ship the day before the sinking because of the weather information available.

“we’ll be about sixty miles south of the eye. it should be fine. we are gunna be fine- not should be- we are gunna be fine,” the Captain said around 8:30am the day before the storm.

On a few occasions, the Captain voiced concern about the ship’s speed.

“I think now it’s not a matter of speed it when we get there we get there as long as we arrive in one piece,” responded the Second Mate.

Around 7PM, the transcript shows the Captain authorized a second course change following a conversation with the Chief Mate. When the Third Mate was on the watch around 8:20PM, the transcript details a conversation with a Helmsman showing increasing concern.

“we can’t outrun it  you know. it’s more powerful than we thought,” the Third Mate said.

Two subsequent conversations- one with the Third Mate on watch at 11:15 PM and one with the Second Mate on watch around 1 AM- included those on watch speaking with the Captain about a course change to the south, but the VDR recordings indicate the Captain declined at that time to make other adjustments, according to the NTSB.

The storm arrives

After that conversation, the Helmsman on watch with the Second Mate saw multiple flashes on the bow, but couldn’t determine what it was. A conversation between the two a short time later references the ship losing speed and not running at max RPMs.

“damn sure don’t wanna lose the plant,” the Helmsman said.

By 2:10am, they noted green water on the bow, clanking, and accelerating wind. By 2:50am, they heard what they believed to be unspecified items that had broken loose on the ship because of the movement the weather was inflicting on the ship.

“hello Joaquin,” said the Second Mate at 3:22am.

The helm was knocked off course several times in the next half hour and the steering stand alarm was triggered frequently after that- to the point where the Chief Mate disabled it. The Chief Mate returned to the bridge around 3:44am and the Captain shortly after 4am. They struggled with visibility as the maneuvered the ship through the storm.

The bridge got a call from the engine room around 4:30am the morning of the sinking talking about the list and engine oil levels. The alternate Chief Engineer is heard on the recording saying he has never seen the ship with such a list around 5:12am, then at 5:43am the Captain is notified about a problem with the number three hold, and suspects it to be flooding. He sends the Chief Mate to investigate and “start the pumping right now”. He also instructed crew to pump from the starboard ramp tanks to port to allow further investigation of the flooding.

The flooding there was attributed to a blown scuttle, but the Captain believed it had been brought under control. Later conversations show more problems with flooding, though, including water sloshing in to the engine room, a rupture causing flooding in one hold, and the bilge alarm going off in another hold. The crew continued to fight the list by pumping, but the Captain noted they weren’t able to gain ground.

The ship lost propulsion at 6:13am, and the transcript now confirms the boiler was among the equipment that went down as part of the plant being lost. We’ve previously confirmed that components of the boiler had been recommended for service. The NTSB says a loss of propulsion essentially left the ship at the “mercy of the seas and the wind” because they weren’t able to reposition in a way to best weather the storm. The Captain asked if the engine room would be able to get the plant back online, and about twenty minutes after the first report, the Captain indicated the boiler would be able to be brought up. The engineering crew continued to struggle to do that, however, because of the list, and the transcript does not indicate that the plant was ever restored.

AUDIO: El Faro Captain reports 'marine emergency'

Crew concerns

Other conversations captured ahead of the sinking included crew concerns about shifting cargo. On the morning the day ahead of the sinking, the Chief Mate told the Captain he wasn’t happy with the way cargo was getting secured on their journeys.

“they don’t do the lashing the way it oughta be done,” the Chief Mate said.

A Helmsman and Third Mate also spoke about not having asked for storm lashing and having difficulty finding spare equipment, and a trailer that was leaning on the second deck was reported to the Chief Mate.  The Chief Mate further said he personally saw cars that were being transported bobbing around in flooding on one of the decks. As the ship started facing problems, the NTSB says the VDR picked up the sound of what’s believed to be cargo or equipment crashing around the bridge, and one crew member saw containers in the water.

The Captain also called to get life rafts in the water, although it’s unclear if the crew was able to get in them. Hours ahead of the sinking, the VDR captured conflicting messages about safety gear from the crew. Some said they were getting their survival suits ready, while others joked about having the gear on hand.

“usually people don’t take the whole umm-uh-survival suit- safety meeting thing very seriously. then it’s ‘yeah- whatever, it fits’ but nobody actually sees to see if their survival suit fits. I think today would be a good day [sound of laugh] for- for the fire and boat drill- just be like- ‘so we just wanna make sure everyone’s survival suit fits’ and then with the storm people are gunna (go/be like) ‘holy [expletive]. I really need to see if my survival suit fits- for reaaal,’ [laughter throughout],” said the Second Mate around 1:40am the morning of the crash.

Some of the crew conversations also questioned whether the company they were working for acknowledged and valued the work they were doing. One conversation between the Captain and Chief Mate indicated both were “in line for the choppin’ block” and “waitin’ to get screwed”. A Helmsman told a Third Mate he avoided speaking out at safety meetings because he didn’t want to be labeled a “troublemaker”. The Third Mate responds that it can be difficult to get stuff done on board, saying he’s seen cases where issues have to be mentioned to several different people, but action only happens after it’s mentioned in a safety meeting.

“it’s hard on here because there’s so many [expletive] things to address-  it’s like where do you start you know?” says the Third Mate.

The final moments

Despite being in “dire straits”, the Captain said around 7:09am that they believed the best option was to stay with the ship, because of the “ferocious” weather. By 7:24am, that opinion changed and the Captain decided to ring the general alarm, although he still did not want to abandon the ship. At 7:28am he ordered a good head count and said everyone needed to have their immersion suits, and at 7:29am he decided to call to abandon ship. At 7:31am life rafts were ordered in to the water.

“everybody- everybody. get off. get off the ship stay together,” the Captain said over the ship’s internal radio.

Some of the earlier statements are chilling- from crew joking about the Polish riding workers not understanding what a hurricane could bring, to referencing the movie “A Perfect Storm”, to laughing early on while charting the storm saying it looked like it was coming for them.

“oh look at that red sky over there. red in the morn’ sailors take warning. that is bright,” said the Captain 6:41am the day ahead of the sinking.

“guess I’m just turnin’ into a chicken little but- I have a feeling like something bad is gunna happen,” said the Third Mate, while on watch at 10:40PM the night before the sinking.

The most chilling portion, however, is the end, where the Captain and Helmsman are the only remaining on the bridge and the Captain is heard urging the crewman to “snap out of it”, “get up”, and “move” in an exchange that started around 7:32am. The Helmsman repeatedly calls for help, and appears to be frozen.

“goin’ down,” yelled the Helmsman.

“you’re not goin’ down. come on,” responded the Captain.

“you gunna leave me,” the Helmsman said,

“I’m not leavin’ you let’s go,” the Captain loudly responded.

The exchange ends when the recording is stopped at 7:39am, with both still at the bridge.

What comes next

What has still not been released is any analysis of this information by the NTSB, recommendations they plan to make as a result of the investigation, or finding of probable cause on what led to the sinking. That will be issued at a later date. The agency did say that the information they’ve gathered will play a crucial role in their investigation.

The NTSB is also expected to take part in a third hearing session of the Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation which was convened on the sinking. While the NTSB has been participating in these hearings, both bodies will issue separate findings. The third hearing session is expected to take place in the coming weeks.

WOKV will be working through the other reports that were made public in the coming weeks.

Editor’s Note: The quotes in this story are all attributable to the transcript. The capitalizations, punctuation, and other features within the quotations represent how the quote appears in the transcript.

Read More

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

The Latest News Headlines

  • A Mill Creek, Washington, man is facing charges after a treehouse was found in the Snoqualmie National Forest with child pornography hanging on the walls inside. >> Watch the news report here KIRO-TV first reported on the discovery off the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River in February. The unauthorized treehouse was reported by an employee of the Department of Natural Resources, according to court documents. A DNR worker took a couple of the photographs off the wall to show law enforcement and called the King County Sheriff's Office. The DNR employee took a detective to the treehouse, which was described in court documents as 'an elaborate tree house that resembled a fairy or gingerbread house.' The treehouse was about 8 feet off the ground with a porch surrounding it. >> On KIRO7.com: Treehouse filled with child porn found near North Bend Investigators say that inside the treehouse they found photographs of naked young girls framed on the walls. There was also a bed, food, supplies, a book and an electronic keyboard. They found an envelope with more pornographic images. The King County Sheriff's Office handed the case over to the FBI to investigate. The FBI sent KIRO-TV new photos of the house on Monday. The FBI searched the cabin in April 2017 and collected items to test for fingerprints and DNA to find out who built the cabin. They took construction photos, smoking material, bedding, glasses, photos of girls, bags of batteries and glass from the photograph frames. They sent the items to the FBI laboratory in Quantico. Federal investigators said they also talked to a Search and Rescue volunteer who said he had seen an SUV near the cabin on multiple occasions, and he had the license plate information. Investigators tracked down the owner of the vehicle and watched him. >> Read more trending news  Investigators said they took a swab from the handle of his motorcycle and later got a paper drinking cup he discarded. Those items were also sent to the lab in Quantico. According to court documents, the items tested at Quantico positively identified the 56-year-old Mill Creek man. Court records show Daniel Wood, of Mill Creek, has been charged with two counts of child pornography possession. FBI agents searched Woods condominium in Mill Creek in February and collected his computers, Amazon Fire, SD cards, Polaroid tablet, VHS tapes and video recorder.
  • Family, friends and the Sacramento community are demanding answers in the death of an unarmed black man killed by police in his own backyard Sunday night, holding nothing but a cellphone in his hand. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told Fox40 that officers fired on Stephon Alonzo “Zoe” Clark a total of 20 times. Clark, 23, died at the scene, leaving behind two young sons.  Hahn was on hand Tuesday night at a City Council meeting, where several residents of the community protested the officer-involved shooting.  “To hell with Sac PD,” resident Rebecca Person said, according to the news station. “I’m sick of them always murdering black youth.” “What is the police’s job to do? To shoot people that are unarmed in their own backyard?” another resident, Robert Copeland, asked.  Fox40 reported that the Sacramento Police Department is under fire for its morphing story of what Clark was carrying.  “They put one story out that he may have been armed. They put out another that he had a toolbar, whatever that is,” Tanya Faison, a member of the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, told the news station. “Then they put out that he had a wrench and then they put out that he just had a cellphone.  “They need to get it together.” The two officers involved in the shooting are being criticized for waiting five minutes, until additional officers came to the scene, to handcuff Clark and begin rendering first aid. Department officials are also facing criticism for not promptly informing Clark’s family, including the grandparents and siblings he lived with, that he was the one gunned down in their yard.  Fox40 reported that Clark’s family called 911 for help after hearing gunshots right outside their window.  Sequita Thompson, Clark’s grandmother, told the Sacramento Bee that she was sitting in her dining room when she heard the shots. “The only thing that I heard was, ‘pow, pow, pow, pow,’ and I got to the ground,” Thompson told the newspaper.  Thompson described crawling to where her 7-year-old granddaughter slept on a couch in an adjacent den, where she got the girl onto the floor. She then made her way to her husband, who uses a wheelchair, and he dialed 911.  Thompson said neither she nor her husband heard officers issue any commands prior to firing the fatal gunshots.  The grieving grandmother told the Bee that investigators interviewed her for hours about what she heard, but never told her it was her grandson who had been killed. She finally looked out a window and saw his body. “I opened that curtain and he was dead. I started screaming,” Thompson said.  Hahn said he and his investigators initially had no idea Clark was related to the homeowners.  “We found out they were related because the family told us so,” the chief told Fox40. Hahn said in a news release Monday that officers were called to the family’s neighborhood around 9:15 p.m. Sunday on a report of a man breaking several car windows. The suspect was described as a thin man, just over 6 feet in height and wearing a black hoodie and dark pants. The caller said the man was hiding in a backyard. Dispatchers sent officers to the scene, where the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department also had a helicopter searching for the suspect from the air, the news release said. About 12 minutes after the 911 call was made, the crew in the helicopter told officers on the ground they saw the alleged suspect in a backyard, where he picked up what looked like a toolbar and broke the sliding glass door of the home before running south toward the front of the house.  That house was next door to the Thompsons’ home. The officers on the ground, directed to his location by the helicopter crew, confronted Clark as he came up along the side of his grandparents’ home, the news release said. When they ordered him to show his hands, he fled to the backyard, officials said.  “Officers pursued the suspect and located him in the backyard of the residence,” the news release said. “The suspect turned and advanced towards the officers while holding an object which was extended in front of him.” Believing the object was a gun, the officers opened fire, the news release said. Clark was struck multiple times, though the exact number of gunshot wounds was not immediately known. A follow-up news release issued later Monday stated that no weapon was found near Clark’s body. “After an exhaustive search, scene investigators did not locate any firearms,” the news release stated. “The only item found near the suspect was a cellphone.” Homicide investigators and crime scene technicians said they found three vehicles with damage they believe Clark caused, as well as the shattered sliding glass door that the helicopter crew said they witnessed him break, the news release said.  The only items investigators found that could have been the toolbar described by the helicopter crew included a cinder block and a piece of aluminum that may have come from a gutter. Both were found near the broken sliding glass door, the Bee reported.  Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, the newspaper said. One of the officers has eight years of law enforcement experience, half of it with the Sacramento department.  The other officer has six years total experience, two of those in Sacramento.  Sacramento city policy requires any body-camera footage of an officer-involved shooting to be made public within 30 days, the Bee reported.  Hahn said he plans to release the officers’ body camera footage, as well as footage from a camera aboard the helicopter, after it has been shared with Clark’s family, Fox40 reported. He anticipated having the footage released by week’s end.  The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office, the city attorney’s office and the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability are investigating the shooting, as is the department’s homicide and internal affairs units.  The Bee reported that Clark was at least the 17th person to die in confrontations with law enforcement in Sacramento County in the past two years. Besides the young father, three others were unarmed. 
  • A Middletown woman told police that because there was a warrant out for her arrest, she was afraid to report the death of her mother. Police were called Monday morning to a residence in the 3200 block of Goldman Avenue on a report of a dead body. There, police found an 88-year-old woman dead in her bedroom. MORE: What a West Chester man told the judge before being sentenced on child porn charges The woman’s daughter, who also lives in the house, told police she found her mother dead in her bed Thursday —four days earlier — but she didn’t contact police. The “only reason” she reported her mother’s death is because her daughter, who also lives in the home, asked about her grandmother and found her dead, according to the police report. >> Read more trending news  The woman had a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear on traffic charges through Middletown Municipal Court, the report said. MORE: Grand jury to consider murder charge against Butler County babysitter Police also contacted another daughter of the dead woman and she told them she hadn’t seen her mother since Thanksgiving. Another daughter told police she last saw her mother a couple of months ago, and she was planning to take her mother to see a doctor this week. The Butler County Coroner’s Office was contacted and took possession of the woman’s body.
  • Andy Savage resigned Tuesday as a pastor of Highpoint Church in Memphis weeks after he admitted that, as a youth pastor in Houston in 1998, he had a “sexual incident” with a high school student. >> Read more trending news Savage got a standing ovation from his congregants in January when he admitted to the encounter with Jules Woodson. He was a 22-year-old youth pastor at the time. Woodson was 17. >> Related: Pastor confesses to ‘sexual incident’ with Houston teen who calls his congregation’s response ‘disgusting’ In a statement released Tuesday, Savage said that since January, he’s “come to understand Jule’s vantage point better, and to appreciate the courage it took for her to speak up.” “When Jules cried out for justice, I carelessly turned the topic to my own story of moral change, as if getting my own life in order should help to make up for what she went through and continues to go through,” he said. He admitted that his relationship with Jules was “not only immoral, but meets the definition of abuse of power, since I was her youth pastor,” and said that he thought he had taken steps to make up for the situation when he resigned from his position and moved to Memphis. “Those steps seemed significant at the time,” he said. “Only through my recent time of reflection have I realized that more should have been done.” >> Related: Tennessee megachurch pastor accused of sexual assault Highpoint Church officials released the following statement after Savage’s resignation: Cantey Hanger’s independent investigation of Andy Savage’s ministry has been completed and the findings communicated to the elders and trustees of Highpoint Church by lead investigator Scott Fredricks. While the investigation found no other instances of abuse in Andy’s ministry, the leadership team at Highpoint Church agrees that Andy’s resignation is appropriate, given the reasons stated in his resignation statement. Highpoint leadership has come to recognize that it was defensive rather than empathetic in its initial reaction to Ms. Jules Woodson’s communication concerning the abuse she experienced, and humbly commits to develop a deeper understanding of an appropriate, more compassionate response to victims of abuse. Highpoint Church remains committed to ensuring that it protects families and children involved in its ministries to the highest standard. Accordingly, as announced earlier, Highpoint Church has asked MinistrySafe to conduct an assessment of Highpoint’s current training, policies, screening practices, and supervision in ministries serving minors at Highpoint Church, then help us implement any needed enhancements. That work will begin soon. In the meantime, our child safety policies can be found online here. We urge anyone with suspicions of child abuse to make a report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services or local law enforcement.  Rare.us and the Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.
  • Police continue to investigate a series of deadly bombings in Austin after authorities said the suspect, identified as Mark Anthony Conditt, 23, killed himself early Wednesday. >> READ MORE: Who is Mark Anthony Conditt, the suspected Austin bomber? | Trump says 'it's not easy to find' culprit in first public comment on Austin bombings | 'Hold your leaders accountable': Chance the Rapper tweets about Austin bombings | Photos: Austin police investigate explosions | For investigators, a race to decode hidden message in Austin bombings | Map shows location of 4 Austin bombs | Austin explosions: 2 men hurt in fourth blast this month | Officials increase reward to $115,000 for information on Austin bombings | Man held in SXSW threat ruled out as bomb suspect, police say | Austin package explosions: 3 blasts appear connected, claim 2 lives, police say | The Roots' SXSW show canceled after bomb threat; man arrested | Austin package bombings: Friends remember victims Draylen Mason, Anthony House| MORE

The Latest News Videos