A third law suit has been filed following the loss of the El Faro in Hurricane Joaquin on October 1. Addreisha Jones, wife of 38-year-old crew member Jacki Jones Jr., has alleged that TOTE Maritime and Sea Star Line failed to maintain the ship and negligently sent it out to sea as the hurricane strengthened.
According to the suit, the vessel had faulty electrical systems, corroded steel and defective satellite equipment, reports The Wall Street Journal. Thus the owners allegedly acted in violation of the federal Death on the High Seas Act and the Jones Act.
Attorney Scott Wagner gathered information about the vessel from interviews with a former crewmember. Allegations include that the vessel was routinely overloaded.
The suit has been filed in federal court and comes after two other suits already filed in state court. The family of 33-year-old Lonnie Jordan is accusing the vessel owners of negligence and putting profit ahead of the lives of its employees. The family of third mate Jeremie Riehm is alleging the vessel's captain, Michael Davidson, failed to take a safer route away from bad weather because he wanted to deliver the cargo on time.
Earlier this month, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released an updated investigation report stating that El Faro successfully completed ABS class and statutory surveys in February. All deficiencies identified were rectified prior to completion of the surveys, and none were associated with El Faro’s main propulsion systems.
The annual inspection of El Faro required by the United States Coast Guard was completed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 6, 2015.
Investigators interviewed two pilots that had guided El Faro in and out of the Port of Jacksonville; both reported that the vessel handled similarly to other vessels of its size and type.
The vessel’s terminal manager reported that El Faro met stability criteria when it left Jacksonville. The company’s procedures called for some cargo on the ship to be “double lashed” regardless of the weather expected to be encountered during the voyage. The vessel stevedores reported that prior to El Faro’s departure, the cargo was secured in accordance with those procedures.
There were 28 Americans and five Polish crewmembers on board at the time of the vessel’s disappearance. The search for survivors was called off on October 7.
The El Faro was 36 nautical miles northeast of Acklins and Crooked Islands, Bahamas, and close to the eye of Hurricane Joaquin. The ship was en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a cargo of containers and vehicles.
Just minutes before distress alerts were received, the El Faro master had called TOTE’s designated person ashore and reported that the ship was experiencing some flooding. He said the crew had controlled the ingress of water but the ship was listing 15 degrees and had lost propulsion. The Coast Guard and TOTE were unable to communicate further with the ship.