Our maritime lawyers have come to learn of a terrible tragedy that has befallen several seafarers aboard a commercial vessel. According to a USA Today news report, a cargo ship carrying 33 crew members went missing after sailing into Hurricane Joaquin this week. Twenty-eight of the crew members are American and five are Polish.
The 735-foot-long vessel, El Faro, got caught in the storm’s throws Thursday near Crooked Island in the Bahamas while sailing from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Once dangerous weather conditions were encountered, crew members sent an SOS advising that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing.
The U.S. Coast Guard began searching for the missing ship on Friday. So far, none of the crew members have been located and the Coast Guard has been unable to establish communication with the vessel. The ship’s crew members had initially reported that the vessel had taken on water, but were able to contain the flooding.
Maritime authorities are fearing the worst, as the cargo ship became disabled near the eye of the hurricane, which is currently listed as a Category 4 storm. This also presents a problem for rescue crews, whose lives could also be placed in danger while trying to search for the vessel. If emergency crews get too close to the eye of the storm, they too could experience a maritime accident. Waves near the last location of the ship were said to be reaching up to 30 feet in height, and could sweep rescuers under.
Due to the hazardous conditions at sea from Hurricane Joaquin, Coast Guard officials have enlisted the help of other maritime authorities, including the Air Force. Air Force airplanes and helicopters have circled the area, but there has been no sign of the ship or its crew.
Unfortunately, the crew member disappearance is just one of the many serious incidents that have transpired due to the storm. Hurricane Joaquin has already caused extensive devastation to the Bahamas, causing heavy floods and property damage. Miraculously, no injuries have been reported. Still, authorities are advising everyone located in the trajectory of the storm to stay indoors and to avoid the coastline.
Given the fact that weather forecasts have been tracking the progress of Hurricane Joaquin, our maritime accident lawyers are wondering why the cargo vessel even attempted the sailing. If an investigation of the matter reveals that the ship owner was aware of the dangers the storm could pose, yet allowed the vessel to set sail, victims (and their loved ones) may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act.
Safety should be the number one priority of all ship owners, and when negligence results in crew member injuries or death, ship owners may be held liable. Loved ones of the El Faro crew can already contact a maritime attorney to discuss their options, should the worst scenario befall the seafarers.