The families of three Mainers who died when the cargo ship El Faro sank during a hurricane in October have accepted settlements of at least $500,000 from the ship’s owner, according to court documents filed this week.
The documents say the El Faro’s owner, Tote Services Inc., agrees to pay $500,000 to each family for “pre-death pain and suffering” and an unspecified amount to cover the “full economic loss” caused by the deaths.
Listed in the documents are the families of Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton and Danielle Randolph, 34, and Dylan Meklin, 23, both of Rockland.
The settlement notice, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida, means that the families of all four Mainers who perished aboard the El Faro have now settled wrongful-death claims.
The family of the ship’s captain, Michael Davidson, 53, of Windham, accepted a similar settlement in January. All four of the Maine crew members were graduates of Maine Maritime Academy in Castine.
Michael Holland’s mother, Deborah Roberts, said Thursday that she and her family felt the settlement offer was “fair.” She said they decided to accept the offer after consulting with attorneys, including one with a specialty in maritime law.
“Our decision had nothing to do with blame. I have held Hurricane Joaquin responsible from day one and continue to do so,” Roberts said in an email statement. “While there is no amount of money in the world that will replace the loss of our beloved son, we felt the offer was fair.”
The 790-foot-long El Faro was carrying 33 people and a load of cargo from Jacksonville to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it sank on Oct. 1 in the middle of Hurricane Joaquin. The Category 4 storm packed 130 mph winds and 30- to 40-foot waves and passed directly over the El Faro’s path. In his final communications from the ship, the captain reported that it had lost propulsion, had taken on water and was listing to one side.
No survivors were found. In terms of loss of life, it was the worst U.S. commercial cargo ship disaster in decades.
The company has now settled with families of 14 of the 33 crew members. It has said it is pursuing settlements with the families of all 33.
Tote Services filed a claim earlier to limit its liability at about $13.2 million for all death claims related to the El Faro, the Florida Times Union reported.
The accident remains under investigation by the Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board.
The broken-up ship was found on the ocean floor off the Bahamas, but searchers have so far been unable to recover the ship’s voyage data recorder, which could shed light on the captain’s decisions and the cause of the sinking. It is still not known why the ship went directly into the path of the storm rather than changing course.