The owner of the El Faro cargo ship has reached settlements with the families of 10 crew members, including the ship’s captain, Michael Davidson of Windham.

Three other crew members from Maine – all four were graduates of Maine Maritime Academy – were on board the ship when it sank during Hurricane Joaquin in the Bahamas in October. No survivors were found.

Five Polish crewmen and 28 Americans were aboard the U.S.-flagged ship – including Davidson, who was 53; Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton; and Danielle Randolph, 34, and Dylan Meklin, 23, both of Rockland – when it sank in 15,000 feet of water.

Court documents obtained Monday show that Davidson’s wife, Teresa, and nine other families of crewmen each accepted a settlement totaling $500,000 for pre-death pain and suffering of their family members.

Each family named in the settlement also will receive a payout for economic losses, but the court records didn’t specify the amount. Six families that had filed lawsuits against Davidson and the El Faro’s owners agreed to drop those claims as part of the settlement.

The settlement was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida. Davidson’s family was the only one from Maine to agree to the settlement offered by the El Faro’s owners – Sea Star Lines LLC, doing business as TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and TOTE Services Inc.


“Since the loss of the El Faro, we have focused every effort on supporting the families of those on board,” TOTE said in a statement released Monday through spokesman Michael Hanson. “An important part of this support has entailed reaching fair and swift legal settlements for those who may choose them. We can confirm that we have settled financially with 10 families through a respectful and equitable mediation process.”

Hanson said that the company’s support of all the crewmen’s families will continue, but added that out of respect for the legal process and the privacy of the families, the company will not discuss the specifics of any individual legal actions.

TOTE also released a brief statement about Davidson that said, “The captain was a professional mariner for over 20 years, with significant experience sailing as a captain. He had been sailing with TOTE for the last three years. … TOTE has great confidence in its highly experienced officers and crew.”

Named in the court settlement documents are the families of 10 crewmen including: Keith Griffin, Piotr Krause, Roan Ronald Lightfoot, Marcin Nita, Jan Podgorski, Richard Pusatere, Howard Schoenly, Andrzej Truszkowski, Rafal Zdobych, and Davidson.

“I didn’t want to go to a court trial or anything like that,” Dena Lightfoot, whose husband, Roan Lightfoot, drowned in the disaster, told NBC News. “I just didn’t want to go through anymore crap.”

She said the $500,000 settlement does not bring her closure.


In a related matter, the national law firm of Blank Rome LLC filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville on Friday to dismiss all wrongful death claims against Davidson and his estate.

Richard E. Berman, one of the Fort Lauderdale attorneys identified in court documents, was contacted Monday, but declined to comment, saying his firm’s policy prohibits him from discussing pending court matters.

The 790-foot-long El Faro sank Oct. 1, off the coast of the Bahamas. The ship set sail for Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, but encountered intense weather and engine trouble as the cargo ship and Hurricane Joaquin converged. Davidson had planned to take a route that was projected to keep him 65 miles from the expected path of the storm.

On the day of the ship’s sinking, Davidson contacted TOTE to inform them he had a maritime emergency. A scuttle, one of the ship’s internal access hatches, had blown open, and water was filling one of the holds, he said. The ship’s engine had also failed and engineers could not get it restarted.

Shortly afterward, Davidson activated an emergency alert signal that broadcast the ship’s position to the U.S. Coast Guard. The ship’s captain never regained voice communication.

The Coast Guard could not locate any survivors in the days and weeks after the sinking. A search later located the wreckage on the floor of the ocean, but failed to find the voyage data recorder that might have provided a clearer explanation of what happened to the ship.


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