Two separate wrongful death lawsuits have been filed by the families of two crew members missing and presumed dead after the El Faro cargo ship was lost in Hurricane Joaquin on Oct. 1. The 790-foot ship was making a routine run from Jacksonville, Fla., to Puerto Rico laden with cars and containers when it left port Tuesday, Sept. 29. The El Faro’s last known position was about 35 miles northeast of Crooked Island, Bahamas, in a channel about 15,000 feet deep.
The first suit was filed on behalf of the family of Lonnie Jordan, one of the ship’s 33 crew members, and seeks $100 million in damages. The lawsuit names as defendants TOTE Services Inc., which operated the ship, TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, which owned the ship, and the El Faro Captain, Sam S. Stephenson. Some are questioning why the captain chose the path and schedule he did, apparently not accounting for an escalation of the tropical storm, instead of taking an alternative route or delaying the voyage.
The second lawsuit was filed on behalf of Tina Reihm, wife of the El Faro’s Third Mate, Jeremie Harold Riehm. The second suit does not request a specific amount of damages. Named defendants in this lawsuit are TOTE Services Inc. and Sea Star Line LLC (now TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico).
Lawyers told maritime news service gCaptain they will seek ship maintenance records as part of discovery efforts.
A salvage effort has been launched as part of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the incident, with hopes of recovering the voyage data recorder. The search and salvage operation is being directed by the U.S. Navy Salvage and Diving division of the Naval Seas System Command, using the USNS Apache, an ocean tug.
gCaptain – El Faro Owners Hit With $100 Million Lawsuit Over Sinking
gCaptain – El Faro Owners Hit With Second Lawsuit Over Tragedy