by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Oct 7, 2015
The US Coast Guard said Wednesday it will suspend its search for survivors of "El Faro," a cargo ship believed to have sunk in a storm in the Bahamas with 33 crew aboard.
The El Faro, which went missing on Thursday, was en route from Florida to Puerto Rico with a cargo of trailers and automobiles when it was caught in Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island.
"The Coast Guard is still continuing its search for the crew members of the 'El Faro.' However, we have decided we will suspend that search at sunset tonight," Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor said at a press conference.
An intensive air-and-sea search has found the remains of only one person, in a survival suit.
But earlier Wednesday, the Coast Guard reported locating more debris from the ship, including a life jacket and an empty survival suit.
The vessel sent a satellite notification that it had lost propulsion and was listing before contact was lost.
A total of 28 Americans and five Poles were on board, the Coast Guard has said.
Fedor spoke of regret at calling off the search, but said it had become clear that rescue operations at this point would be fruitless
"Any decision to suspend a search is painful. In this particular case, we were searching for fellow professional mariners," he said.
"We were also searching for members of the extended Coast Guard family."
"I know that the Coast Guard along with our brethren in the Navy and the Air Force, as well as the commercial tugs that were out there helping us search, did all they could in this search effort," Fedor said, describing the days-long rescue mission as "an all-hands effort."
The US National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the incident. NTSB officials have said a probe may take months to complete.
Tote Maritime, the owner of the ship, has said it will cooperate with the investigation, and also will carry out its own probe of safety procedures on the ship.
The 735-foot (225-meter) El Faro was carrying 391 containers in addition to 294 trailers and automobiles below deck when it disappeared.
Joaquin has proved to be the Atlantic hurricane season's most powerful storm so far this year, reaching a Category Four out of maximum Five in intensity.
The storm caused serious damage in the Bahamas, as well as major power outages in Bermuda.
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