The widow of the captain of the El Faro described her husband as a cautious and experienced mariner who did not cut corners.

“He wanted things done correctly, you know, by the book. Everything he did was by the book,” Theresa Davidson said of her husband, Michael Davidson, when she was interviewed by a team of federal investigators at the Coast Guard office in South Portland on Jan. 5 of this year.

The interview, which is part of the 500-page transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday, provides the public with the first look into the professional life of the Windham man who captained the ship that sank in the Caribbean last October, killing all 33 aboard. The transcript also represents Theresa Davidson’s first public comments on the catastrophe.

Michael Davidson, a 1988 graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, lived in Windham with his wife and their two children. Theresa Davidson could not be reached for comment Tuesday night on her reaction to the transcript.

The NTSB and Coast Guard investigators who interviewed Davidson told her, “We’re not here to assign any fault or blame or any liability. We want to see what we can do to prevent this from happening again.”

Investigators asked her a broad range of questions from how she communicated with her husband at sea – mostly by email or text – whether he liked his crew, and about the condition of the ship.


“Did he say boy this thing is a wonderful ship? This is a piece of junk. I mean how did he portray the ship to you?” Brian Young of the NTSB asked.

“Well, he didn’t really talk about the ship in general, but he did send me a text one time (in August) and said that there was propulsion and gyro issues,” Davidson replied. “And that the main (computer) server was down.”

Davidson was asked whether her husband ever mentioned any structural damage to the hull that might have caused leaks. She said he never mentioned defects. She also told the investigators that her husband would not have taken any ship out to sea if he knew it needed repairs.

“He wasn’t that kind of person, he was too safety conscious himself. He wouldn’t have done it,” she said.

Davidson said her husband stood by his beliefs, even if it involved bucking upper management. He left one shipping company because “they were asking him to do something that was unsafe on the ship as captain.”

That led him to take a job as third mate on a ship owned by TOTE, the company that owned the El Faro.


Investigators asked her if her husband was being pressured by TOTE management to meet a delivery schedule on his route from Florida to Puerto Rico last fall. They also asked if he was forced to change course by the company during Hurricane Joaquin.

“He never said anything like that,” Davidson said. As for the course change, she said, “I didn’t even really know he changed course until after Oct. 1.”

Davidson ended the interview by telling the investigators, “like the other family members, we just want to know what happened.”


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