US Coast Guard Searching for Crew of Missing Ship

US Coast Guard Searching for Crew of Missing ShipUS Coast Guard Searching for Crew of Missing Ship

The Coast Guard said Monday that a US cargo ship carrying 33 people that has been missing since it encountered high winds and heavy seas from Hurricane Joaquin sank, but that planes and ships will continue searching for the missing crew.

Chief Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said the Coast Guard and the owner of the 790-foot container ship El Faro concluded that the vessel sank after debris, containers and an oil sheen were found, AP reported.

“We’re definitely still looking for survivors at this time,” Rios said. “It’s still a very active search and rescue operation.”

Three Coast Guard cutters, two C-130 aircraft, helicopters and a US Navy plane were searching across a wide expanse of Atlantic Ocean near Crooked Island. Another Coast Guard spokesman, David Schulein, said searchers found a significant debris field 88 miles off Samana Cay believed to have come from the El Faro. The vessel’s owner said previously that a container that appears to have come from the ship was found, along with a debris field that included what appeared to be pieces of container. Searchers also spotted an oil sheen and found a life ring from the El Faro.

The El Faro departed from Jacksonville, Florida, on Sept. 29, when Joaquin was still a tropical storm. The ship had 28 crew members from the United States and five from Poland, and it was heading to Puerto Rico on a regular cargo supply run when it ran into trouble.

It was being battered by winds of more than 130 mph and waves of up to 9 meters. Contact was lost early Thursday.

The crew reported that the ship had lost power, had taken on water and was listing 15 degrees but that the situation was “manageable,” in their last communication on Thursday morning, according to ship owner TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico. They have not been heard from since.