United States

Cargo Ship Believed to Have Sunk in Hurricane Joaquin; 1 Body Found: Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard has found one body in the search for a ship last reported in the path of a hurricane near the Bahamas last week, but the search for survivors continues, an official said Monday.

The ship, El Faro, lost propulsion and had taken on a manageable amount of water when Hurricane Joaquin hit. It hasn't been heard from since Thursday, and the Coast Guard and the ship's owner concluded Monday that the 790-foot container ship sank in high winds and heavy seas last week.

Search crews have found signs of El Faro, including one unidentified body in a survival suit, according to Capt. Mark Fedor, the U.S. Coast Guard's 7th District chief of response.

An airborne crew spotted several survival suits floating amid debris from the El Faro. Most were empty but one had a body, Fedor said. A helicopter crew confirmed the person was dead but had to leave the body behind to continue the search for possible survivors.

Others may have survived, but Fedor said they would have faced a challenging fight for survival.

"If the vessel did sink on Thursday and that crew was able to abandon ship,” it would have been into the a category 4 hurricane, according to Fedor. “You're talking up to 140 mph winds, seas upwards of 50 feet, visibility basically at 0. Those are challenging conditions to survive in."

Fedor said Monday that Coast Guard cutters and aircraft and a U.S. Navy plane continued searching the Atlantic Ocean for the missing crew, along with tug boats hired by the shipping company.

Fedor also said crews found one of two lifeboats from El Faro, but it had no people or signs of life. He says the ship had two lifeboats, and each can hold 43 people.

Earlier, a container, pieces of another container and a life ring from the El Faro was recovered. An oil sheen also was spotted.

NBC Owned Television Stations' Asher Klein contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us