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Another mission needed to recover El Faro’s data recorder
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 Another mission needed to recover El Faro’s data recorder

​WASHINGTON — The investigative team aboard the research vessel Atlantis who located the El Faro’s voyage data recorder Tuesday has determined it will not be possible to recover the VDR during the current mission.

The team of investigators and scientists aboard Atlantis collaborated with investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board lab in Washington and determined that given the VDR’s proximity to the mast and other obstructions, recovery of the VDR cannot be accomplished with the equipment currently available on the ship.

Video and photographic images revealed that the VDR appears to remain attached to a steel beam connected to the mast structure.

“Now that we have been able to see just how the VDR is oriented relative to the mast structure, it’s clear that we’re going to need specialized deep-water salvage recovery equipment in order to bring it up,” said Brian Curtis, Acting Director of the NTSB Office of Marine Safety. “Extracting a recorder capsule attached to a four-ton mast under 15,000 feet of water presents formidable challenges, but we’re going to do everything that is technically feasible to get that recorder into our lab.”

Although there is not yet a confirmed timeframe for the launch of the VDR retrieval effort, investigators are hopeful that the logistics can be coordinated so that the mission can be completed in the next several months.

The current mission will continue to gather imagery of the El Faro hull and debris field until successfully completed. Atlantis is expected to depart the site April 30 and arrive in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, May 5.

In October and November of 2015, the NTSB conducted an initial search mission to locate the sunken vessel and conduct an initial survey of the debris field. The data collected during that mission were used by investigators to plot “high probability” search zones for the current mission. Those data proved reliable and resulted in the location of the mast and VDR in one of the zones.

NTSB public affairs will issue updates as circumstances warrant.

B-roll video of the team working aboard Atlantis on April 26 is available for viewing and download at:

Images of the team on the Atlantis, along with other photos related to the El Faro investigation, are available at:

Graphic showing location of VDR relative to the El Faro hull:

VDR fact sheet:

For more information about the NTSB’s investigation of the loss of the El Faro, please visit

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Contact: NTSB Media Relations
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Washington, DC 20594
Peter Knudson
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