BOSTON (CBS) — The families of the 33 crew members lost when the El Faro sank in October 2015 were desperate for answers–like why the captain sailed into a hurricane and why the ship didn’t survive.
Now, for the first time, the National Transportation Safety Board’s lead investigator has shared details about the contents of the ship’s black box–found 15k feet beneath the sea last August–including the voice recordings of the lost.
Six of the crew members were from New England. Two of them, Jeffrey Mathias and Keith Griffin, were graduates of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on Cape Cod.
A card contained in the box captured the sound from six microphones on the bridge of El Faro, the military ship destroyed by hurricane Joaquin with no survivors.
It is the last time crew members can be heard on board.
By law, the audio was never released to the public, but investigators produced a 500-page transcript from the voyage data recorder, or “VDR.”
“It was incredibly moving,” said lead investigator Brian Young. “We listened to the entire VDR from start to finish, and at the end, the team was completely silent. Nobody spoke … We knew when that recording was going to end, and we knew what a tragic ending it was going to be.”
At 11 p.m., Third Mate Jeremie Riehm called the captain in his quarters to say that, in five hours, El Faro would be “twenty-two miles from the center … with gusts to one-twenty and strengthening…”
After 1 a.m., Second Mate Danielle Randolph called the captain again to say “it isn’t lookin’ good right now.”
Twice, Riehm and Randolph suggested a new route, but Captain Davidson declined.
“There were some references made by the mates after the phone call suggesting he may have been sleeping,” Young said.
The junior officers did not want to change course without their captain’s permission.
“All officers are taught to respect the change of command, and to change the ship’s course without the captain’s permission is very drastic,” said Young.
Second Mate Randolph sent an email to her mother, Laurie Bobillot.
“She never wanted to worry me,” Bobillot said. “But for her to send me an email during it to say ‘Heading straight for it, give my love to everyone,’ she knew.”