With Search for Missing Crew Over, Focus Turns to Finding Data Recorder

PHOTO COUTESY : MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY Photo of Jeffrey Mathias, 44, of Kingston who graduated from MMA in 1996.

PHOTO COUTESY : MASSACHUSETTS MARITIME ACADEMY
Photo of Jeffrey Mathias, 44, of Kingston who graduated from MMA in 1996.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Coast Guard says it has ended its search for 33 missing crew members from a U.S. cargo ship that sank last week during Hurricane Joaquin.

Petty Officer Mark Barney confirmed that the search ended for survivors from the El Faro at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. Earlier, officials had announced the search would end at sunset.

The 790-foot cargo ship sank last week off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm with 140 mph winds and 50-foot waves.

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.

The Coast Guard searched a 300-square-mile expanse of Atlantic Ocean near Crooked Island in the Bahamas. The searchers found a body in a survival suit, but could not retrieve it. They also found an empty life raft, empty survival suits, a life ring and other debris.

Investigators will now focus on determining why the ship stalled and sank in the howling winds of Joaquin. They’ll be searching for a brightly colored device bolted to the vessel deep in the ocean.

Authorities say the El Faro’s voyage data recorder, similar to the “black box” on an aircraft, would provide a wealth of data on what befell the container ship and the 33 people aboard in the hours before it’s believed to have gone down. The recorder emits a ping for 30 days after hitting the water.

National Transportation Safety Board officials say a deep-diving, remote-controlled submersible could bring the recorder up if the ship is located in some 15,000 feet of water off the Bahamas.

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