Captain of Cargo Ship That Sank in Hurricane May Have Made Risky Decision

PHOTO COUTESY : MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY Photo of Keith Griffin, 33, a 2005 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. Griffin is among 33 crew members on board a cargo ship that went missing off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin

PHOTO COUTESY : MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY
Photo of Keith Griffin, 33, a 2005 graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. Griffin is among 33 crew members on board a cargo ship that went missing off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Federal investigators say the captain of the doomed cargo ship that sank after being battered by a hurricane intended to pass 65 miles from the center of the storm, a decision maritime experts say was risky.

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday said the captain, Michael Davidson, emailed a company safety official on Sept. 30 about his route.

The 790-foot El Faro left after the National Hurricane Center sent out an advisory that then-Tropical Storm Joaquin was predicted to become a hurricane.

The freighter eventually sunk, and all 33 crew members aboard were lost. A Navy team is currently searching for the wreckage.

Massachusetts Maritime Academy graduates Keith Griffin, 33, and Jeffrey Mathias, 44, were among the crew.

Griffin was a native of Winthrop and graduated from the Academy in 2005. Mathias was from Kingston and graduated in 1996.

John Nicoll, a retired captain who spent years piloting the run to Puerto Rico, says his rule of thumb was always to stay 300 miles away from a storm’s center.

Meanwhile, another lawsuit is being filed on behalf of a crew member aboard the cargo ship.

Court records show the wrongful death lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of Tina Riehm, widow of third mate Jeremie Riehm, one of 33 people aboard the ship.

It is the second lawsuit to be filed by family members of the crew that was lost at sea Oct. 1.

Last week, the family of Lonnie Jordan filed a $100 million lawsuit against Tote Marine, the vessel’s owner and operator, and its captain.

Riehm’s lawsuit alleges the captain of the vessel failed to take a safer route away from bad weather because he wanted to deliver the cargo on time.

The company says it is not commenting on any individual lawsuits brought in the El Faro case.

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