The lead investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday called the sinking of the El Faro cargo ship a “colossal failure” of management by its owner, according to WCSH-TV.

Investigator Tom Roth Roffy was responding to comments made by Pete Keller, a top executive with TOTE Maritime, the company that owned and operated the El Faro, during a hearing about the disaster in Jacksonville, Florida, WCSH reported.

The El Faro sank with all 33 crew members aboard east of the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1. It was one of the worst U.S. maritime disasters in decades.

Four Mainers, including captain Michael Davidson, were on the ship when it sank. Other crew members from Maine were Dylan Meklin and Danielle Randolph of Rockland, and Michael Holland of Wilton. All were graduates of Maine Maritime Academy, as was a fifth crew member, Mitchell Kuflik of Brooklyn, New York.

“Few would dispute the loss of the ship El Faro and its cargo and most importantly the loss of 33 souls about the El Faro represents a colossal failure in management of the companies responsible for the safe operation of the El Faro,” Roth Roffy said at the hearing.

The Coast Guard panel conducting the hearing questioned Keller about commercial pressures in the shipping industry. Investigators are trying to determine if Davidson felt pressure to sail despite the storm to meet his schedule. Keller told investigators he was not involved in day-to-day operations of the ship, and that as long as everything was working well he was satisfied.

Responding to Roth Roffy, Keller said he thought the tragic loss is “all about an accident and I look to this board and the NTSB to define what those elements may or may not have been.”

Keller said he could not come up with any management failures that could have led to the sinking of the El Faro, according to WCSH. Tote has not conducted its own investigation into the disaster to determine what happened, other than to cooperate with the Coast Guard and NTSB, Keller said.

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