The search for the missing vessel data recorder on the El Faro cargo ship, which sank Oct. 1 off the Bahamas with five Maine Maritime Academy graduates on board, will resume Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced the resumption of the search in a news release Sunday.

The search will be conducted with help from the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The research vessel Atlantis is scheduled to depart from Charleston, South Carolina, on Monday and will search the ocean floor for 10 days before returning to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, around May 5.

The search will try to locate and retrieve the vessel data recorder, a device that could better document the wreckage to help determine exactly why and how the El Faro sank with 33 crew members on board, including four from Maine.

Deb Roberts of Wilton lost her son, Michael Holland, in what authorities described as the deadliest U.S. commercial cargo ship disaster in decades.

Roberts has spent the past six months working on getting legislation passed that she and her son had started to develop before the El Faro sank and on creating a Facebook page in support of her son, the other members of the crew and their families.


The page, which has more than 4,200 members, provides a forum for crew members’ families and friends to talk about their loss. Roberts said the Legislature on Friday approved L.D. 1587, a bill that would allow Maine residents employed on a vessel at sea for most of the year to qualify for the educational opportunity tax credit.

Roberts said she was notified Sunday by the NTSB about its plans to resume searching for the vessel’s data recorder.

“For us, we don’t need that (the VDR) to move on with our lives. I have moved on and mourned my son,” Roberts said Sunday evening. “Finding the voyage data recorder is not going to bring Mike back.”

But Roberts acknowledges that other crew members’ families are hopeful that the device will be found because, if operational, it could bring them a sense of closure on what may have happened to the El Faro before it sank.

The Atlantis will carry a sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicle, the AUV Sentry, to search for the recorder, according to the NTSB.

The vessel data recorder is expected to contain information critical to determining the cause of the accident. It should contain basic navigational and video data from the El Faro’s navigation bridge during the hours leading up to the sinking in more than 15,000 feet of water off the coast of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin.


It could also contain voice data from the navigation bridge, possibly conversations between the ship’s captain and crew.

Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the NTSB, said Sunday evening the hope is that the vessel data recorder remained intact and was not damaged.

The loaded ship was making a run between Jacksonville, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico when it sank during the Category 4 hurricane amid 130 mph winds and 30- to 40-foot waves.

The ship’s captain, Michael Davidson, 53, of Windham, reported the ship had lost propulsion, taken on water and was listing during his final communication from the El Faro.

During the new search, investigators will also capture digital high-resolution imagery of the hull and wreckage, the NTSB said.

The wreckage of the El Faro – which was built in 1974 and was 790 feet long – was located last November with help from the U.S. Navy and the USNS Apache.


The November search determined that the upper two decks, including the navigation bridge, had separated from the hull and were about a half-mile away on the ocean floor. The main mast of the El Faro and the vessel data recorder were not found during that search.

Mainers lost in the sinking included Davidson; Holland, 25, of Wilton; and Danielle Randolph, 34, and Dylan Meklin, 23, both of Rockland.

All four families of the four Mainers have settled wrongful death claims with the El Faro’s owner, Tote Services Inc., which paid more than $500,000 to each family.

A fifth sailor, Mitchell Kuflik, of Brooklyn, New York, graduated from Maine Maritime Academy in 2011.

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