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Ten El Faro families settle with owners of sunken US ship
by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Jan 26, 2016

The families of 10 sailors who died when the US cargo ship El Faro sank in a hurricane agreed Monday to receive $500,000 each in a settlement with the vessel's owner.

That sum will go toward the "pain and suffering" caused by the tragedy, and an additional, unspecified amount aims to compensate for the economic losses caused by the sailors' deaths, according to the agreement with TOTE Maritime reached in a Florida court.

The El Faro sank with its crew of 33 people aboard, mostly Americans and five Poles, when it was caught by Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas on October 1.

The ship, in operation for four decades and measuring 790 feet (240 meters) long, was transporting several hundred shipping containers and automobiles on a voyage from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Families of the remaining 23 victims have also filed complaints with TOTE Maritime, which refused to discuss the legal actions. Claims are also pending over the lost cargo.

The El Faro sent its last message on October 1 as it was caught in the hurricane.

The ship crew reported a loss of propulsion and water entry, though this was under control at the time. The crew also said the ship was listing 15 degrees.

Hurricane Joaquin reached category four strength on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale.

"We can confirm that we have settled financially with 10 families through a respectful and equitable mediation process," TOTE Maritime said in a statement.

It also stressed that the accord reached with the families of the victims - including that of the captain, Michael Davidson - was a "full and final settlement of all claims filed."

Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board found the ship's wreckage some 15,000 feet below the ocean surface, but it was missing the black box that could have provided more information about the accident.

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