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  • An autopsy is planned Thursday for a 15-month-old girl found dead in the back seat of her mother's car, which was in the employee parking lot of the Procter & Gamble Mason Business Center in Mason, Ohio.  “She was left unattended in the car by an employee who worked there,” Doyle Burke, Warren County Coroner’s Office investigator, said at an impromptu news conference outside the coroner’s office in Lebanon, Ohio, Wednesday. >> Read more trending news The child’s body has been taken to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office, which is contracted to handle some death investigations for Warren County.  The mother is a P&G employee, Burke said, but he doesn't know what her job is. He also said he has had no contact with the woman, so he has no information as to her age, where the family lives or whether the baby had siblings. He said Mason police, who are conducting that part of the investigation, were interviewing the parents Wednesday night.  According to Mason police, officers and sheriff's deputies were called to the employee parking lot at 4:59 p.m. on a report of a medical emergency. The officers and Mason Emergency Medical Service were directed to a vehicle where the 15-month-old girl was deceased in a car seat.  Burke said it appears that the child may have been left in the car all day, “roughly 7:30, 8 a.m. until the dispatch at 5 p.m. The mother of the little girl called 911 upon the discovery.” Burke said it was way too early in the investigation to reach any determination about why the child was left in the car. Mason police will deal with that and other issues, he said, including whether there are surveillance cameras in the parking lot or whether P&G security officers make routine checks of vehicles.  “On appearances, certainly the child left in the car, even though it wasn’t sweltering hot today, it’s obviously going to be hotter in the car,” Burke said. “Certainly, a 15-month-old is more susceptible to something like this than an adult. So, that’s the theory we're working under.” According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, the temperature in the Warren County region was near 80 degrees. Burke said he could not recall working a case in Warren County involving the death of a child in a hot car.  “It’s preventable,” he said. 'It’s just tragic.”
  • As part of the NTSB’s investigation of the sinking of El Faro, several groups were formed to examine specific factors, like engineering, meteorology, and more.  Now, the Human Factors Group Chairman’s Factual Report has been released, focusing on many different aspects of personnel on and off the ship, including company oversight and training.    FULL COVERAGE: The sinking of El Faro El Faro went down in Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015, while heavily loaded and transiting from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. All 33 people on board the cargo ship died. The NTSB participated in a series of Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearings to publicly question interested parties and vet evidence, but also conducted their own interviews. Both Boards are now working separately to put forward their full investigative findings, with the NTSB’s expected out later this year.  As part of their ongoing investigation, the NTSB released several factual reports late last year. WOKV has taken a comprehensive look in to each one.  Voyage Data Recorder Group Chairman’s Factual Report: Captain altered course twice, but denied two more changes recommended by crew Engineering Group Chairman’s Factual Report: Boiler components were recommended for service, plant failed on final voyage Electronic Data Group Chairman’s Factual Report: Gaps seen in weather data downloads, but cause unclear Survival Factors Group Chairman’s Report: Open lifeboats allowed because of El Faro’s age, both were badly damaged with nobody on board Meteorology Group Chairman’s Factual Report: Challenging storm led to substantial forecast track errors This latest Report comes soon after four newly transcribed portions from El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder- or black box- were released. The overall VDR transcription is the longest ever assembled by the NTSB, capturing more than 26 hours of audio and data leading up to the sinking.    Credentialing, training, and evaluating the crew  The Report says El Faro’s officers were all trained in compliance with Coast Guard and International Maritime Organization regulations, but the company managing the crewing- TOTE- did not require formal heavy-weather training courses because the Coast Guard didn’t require them. The Report says, since 2003, masters and chief mates have had to takes exams covering some aspects of heavy weather to get their credentials, but El Faro’s master got his before and was grandfathered in without needing to test those criteria.  TOTE says informal heavy-weather training took place. The company did not have anyone dedicated to ship-specific training and records, rather that was overseen by various shoreside personnel, ship masters, and individual mariners.  Senior officers on the ships were required to get annual performance reviews, and other officers and crew got evaluations at the end of each ten-week rotation or if they detached from a ship, according to TOTE policy. The investigation so far has found these were not always done on schedule, though. In fact, the second mate’s most recent evaluation was November 2011, and only incomplete draft evaluations were found for the captain and chief engineer.  The Report goes in to detail on the performance evaluations on record for El Faro’s officers. By and large, the reviews show high marks.  GALLERY: Tributes to the El Faro crew The captain’s most recent evaluation was considered to be a draft by TOTE, and was partially completed October 2014. The port engineer scored the captain excellent- the highest mark- in all categories, except for “cooperation with technical manager”, which was blank. Comments on the evaluation included praise for the captain’s professionalism, saying that he “handles a diversified and unpredictable crew quite well”. This evaluation had not been signed by the captain or technical manager, nor had it been stamped by TOTE for formal receipt.  The second mate’s most recent evaluation in her performance file was from November 2011, when she was a third mate. At that time, the evaluator said the company should aim to keep her long term. There was no performance evaluation in her file from her time as second mate.  The chief engineer’s most recent evaluation on file was also from when he served a different role- first assistance engineer in July 2013. At that time, he got high scores, with comments about his good attitude and work ethic. There was a draft evaluation from October 2014 which dealt with him as a chief engineer and a partially complete evaluation from the same year, but it was not stamped for formal receipt.  This chief mate was hailed as passionate and a good instructor. The third mate was a solid watch stander who had the knowledge and skills to advance. The first assistant engineer was marked “fair” in attention to duty, but was also on his first trip in a newly raised role. The second assistant engineer was praised as “one of the most dependable and hardest working men”. Third assistant engineer number one was valuable and highly reliable, number two was recommended in November 2014 to get better knowledge of the ship and equipment, and number three was new to the company- he joined El Faro the evening they left on what would become the final voyage.      New position assignments  At the time of El Faro’s final voyage, TOTE was heavily involved in launching new LNG ships to replace El Faro and her sister vessel on the Jacksonville-Puerto Rico route. Testimony and records examined by investigators show those decisions were causing hostility on board and leaving El Faro’s captain specifically questioning where he stood.  For the first time, this Report shows El Faro captain’s prior employer- for whom he worked for a few years leading up to 2013- had raised some concerns about him. NTSB investigators requested his performance evaluations and related materials for the most recent two years, and found two letters of warning and a letter detailing a meeting between the captain and management.  The Report says that meeting included discussing overtime for cargo operations, concern of unprofessional or disparaging remarks to non-vessel personnel by vessel officers, perception of the captain disassociating himself from daily activities, and perception of disharmony between the master and senior officers. One letter of warning listed two violations on accident reporting.  “Any further incidents of policy infractions or poor job performance would cause us to have a loss of confidence in you as master within our fleet of vessels,” the letter says, according to the Report.  The other warning letter said the captain failed to notify management of cargo damage. That letter stated that the captain had already been warned more severe disciplinary action could be coming, including termination. The captain submitted his letter of resignation in the month that followed that letter.  Correspondence from TOTE officials who were vetting the captain to potentially lead one of the new LNG vessels also showed concerns about the captain’s performance. Emails read during the public hearings show one official had “dwindling confidence” in the captain, and another described him as a “stateroom Captain”- although he later testified that was a stylistic difference, but that he was still an “effective” captain.  Emails show the captain received a verbal warning from TOTE for welding repairs that weren’t carried out, but there were no letters of warning or reprimand on his file with that company.  GALLERY: NTSB Factual Reports exhibits The crewing decisions were causing friction on board, according to the testimony of off-duty crew and crew spouses. None of TOTE’s captains were selected for the new vessels at the time, although El Faro’s captain was later brought in for another interview for reconsideration, and it was decided he would be offered the job. Before the captain was informed of that decision, though, TOTE learned about an incident involving a potential violation of the company’s no-tolerance alcohol policy by an El Faro crew member, but it was not well documented. The company postponed their final decision on the new vessel, and communications from the captain in the days before the sinking indicate he still didn’t have a clear picture what would happen.  The captain himself indicated in communications that he had also not gotten any information from TOTE on why he wasn’t chosen for a new vessel on the first pass, and he believed he was improving the culture on TOTE vessels- including helping a ship after drug and Customs issues. There was conflicting testimony whether El Faro’s captain would have been asked to stay on with the vessel when it transitioned to the Alaskan trade, as planned.  There was also friction among the rest of the crew over the decisions about the new vessels. While there were non-disclosure agreements for those selected for the new ships, testimony from some crew members showed there was discontent among those who were not selected.      Corporate responsibilities  El Faro was owned by TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico and operated by TOTE Services- both under the umbrella of TOTE Inc.  TMPR was previously Sea Star Line, and during a reorganization under that name in 2012-2013, there were some positions that were cut, including port captains. Port captains used to oversee vessel operations along with the port engineer. Another part of the reorganization included relocating more personnel to Jacksonville.  TOTE testified that the reorganization didn’t have a negative impact on the shoreside support they provided to ships, but the Report notes there was some conflicting testimony from others about the actual implications.  The Report says TOTE had considered hiring more employees to specifically assist the Manager of Safety and Operations because of his “extensive duties”, but that didn’t happen ahead of the sinking, and that person continued to carry all of the work. By early 2017, testimony showed some of the responsibilities had been reallocated across other existing employees. The Director of Marine Safety and Services also testified that his time was increasingly focused on TOTE’s new LNG ships, and there was no formal reassignment of the other responsibilities on his plate.  AUDIO: El Faro’s captain describes marine emergency in final shoreside contact When El Faro was in distress and later determined to have sunk, but the search for possible survivors was still ongoing, there was an emergency response team stood up. The Report notes testimony from the Vice President of Marine Operations- who was on that team- saying he didn’t know the specific duties of the members of the team. The emergency response team would run scenarios as practice, but none specific to heavy weather, according to NTSB interviews with team members.  While the phone number for the Designate Person- a TOTE official available at all hours for any emergencies or needs on the ship- was posted throughout the ship per the Safety Management System, the only company-provided phone on board was on the bridge. That led to questions in the public hearings about whether safety concerns on board could truly be reported anonymously- since there were always people on watch on the bridge.  There was also an online reporting tool, with information posted on the ship, although an internet connection would be required to use the site. Crew were also not prohibited from having their own cell phones, but connection would be difficult at sea.      Safety on board  TOTE- like other shipping companies- is required to have a safety management system that defines the responsibilities of personnel, safe practice for ship operation, and safeguards against certain risks.  Internal audits of the SMS and International Safety Management code were required at least every 12 months, to be completed by TOTE’s Designated Person. External audits also took place by the ship’s surveyor, the American Bureau of Shipping. El Faro’s most recent internal audit was submitted to the company in June 2015. The DP says he was satisfied the crew knew the SMS, and the SMS itself appeared to be well implemented and documented.  Investigators also reviewed minutes from safety meetings that took place on board. The SMS required monthly safety and security meetings on the ship, and El Faro’s most recent was toward the end of September 2015.  Two human factors influencing safety on board are pace of operations and crew fatigue.  TOTE’s competitor, Horizon Lines, downsized in 2012 and completely stopped operations on the Jacksonville-Puerto Rico route in late 2014. TOTE picked up more business as a result, and used barges to supplement the existing ships to carry the increased volume of cargo. Turnover notes showed the cargo load on board was “continually heavy”, according to the Report.  The Report says El Faro’s captain was known to be able to maintain his schedule, even though TOTE says ship personnel didn’t know that was something they tracked. There was also testimony from a few different sources saying the company didn’t pressure the crew to keep to arrival times, although a company official admitted in testimony that the owners would get incentives for keeping the ships on schedule.  GALLERY: El Faro’s Voyage Data Recorder recovered The Report says El Faro’s officers were under contract to work 12 hours a day while on the vessel. While the hours for the sinking voyage aren’t available because they were on board, records for two two-week periods just ahead of the sinking show officers logging on average 13 hour days and 12.5 hour days. SIU crew members worked an average of 10.9 hour- and 13 hour-work days in those same time frames, with the Report indicating they were on overtime past an eight hour day.  The captain was required to track work and rest hours to ensure they were in compliance with regulations. Testimony was unclear on who in the company would then further verify, although the Designated Person said every crew member was also responsible for tracking themselves.  The mates would generally get a little relief in port, when a port mate would help oversee cargo loading operations. Records show a port mate was not used in Jacksonville in the final days of El Faro, though. Work/rest records for El Faro’s third mate show four violations in the final two months.  “The chief engineer told his wife that he was exhausted from all the maintenance and issues he had in the weeks leading to the accident, stating that it was the worst tour he had been on in terms of maintenance issues,” says the Report, citing an interview done with the chief engineer’s wife.  Interviews with friends of the second mate showed she also complained of fatigue and used over-the-counter medication to help get sleep. Testimony and the VDR transcript also spoke about a former chief mate who had fallen asleep while on watch. Further, the captain had worked a normal ten-week shift that ended July 14th, but was called back after only four weeks off because his relief had resigned.    Operating in severe weather  El Faro used the Bon Voyage System as one of their primary weather systems. The system would map weather conditions along with sea conditions, for a ship to use as guidance for routing. The investigation in to the sinking so far has shown a one-time glitch in BVS led to an outdated forecast track being sent to El Faro on their final voyage, but the larger questions that have emerged include whether all of those who needed to use the system were fully trained and if anyone other than the captain could access all of the needed information.  The Report says there is no evidence BVS users on El Faro had any formal training. Rather, prior deck officers who testified said training was on the job, with manuals and guides readily available.  The captain was heard on El Faro’s VDR expressing some difficulty with the consistently changing track of Joaquin, although he also stated he believed they would just get around it. The captain did also make some course changes on the fatal voyage, in an effort to ensure they would skirt the storm.  The BVS system sent the data packages to the captain’s stateroom, and he had to download it to send to the bridge, according to the Report. This addresses another frequent question from investigators during the hearings, which is whether the crew was able to get this information directly on the bridge, even without the captain- it appears that was not the case. While the Report says most data packets were downloaded and sent to the bridge by the captain within an hour of them being received, the packet sent to the ship at 11PM the night ahead of the sinking wasn’t downloaded for five hours and 41 minutes, or 4:45AM the morning of the sinking  TOTE’s SMS did not have many specific procedures for heavy weather, except that the ship’s master monitor and analyze weather along the ship’s track and take proper precautions. Additionally, the chief mate needed to ensure watertight hatches and doors were secure, but there was no outline on how that would be verified, according to the Report.  GALLERY: El Faro’s wreckage If the captain needed to slow the ship’s speed or change course because of weather, he was required to tell company headquarters. There was an email from El Faro’s captain shown during the public hearings that indicated he was seeking approval to change his route on what would have been the return trip on the fatal voyage, rather than just informing the company of the change. Several TOTE officials repeatedly testified to investigators that permission was not needed, and they were unsure why the captain would have sought it. Rather, they said the captain was empowered to make decisions about voyage planning and vessel operations. There were additionally other communications presented which showed the captain informing TOTE of changes as a “professional courtesy”, and even in the email where he appears to seek permission to take an alternate return route, he also told the company he had adjusted his immediate route further to the south to try to get around the storm.  There were no alerts from the company sent about the system that developed in to Hurricane Joaquin, or Tropical Storm Erika before that. TOTE had sent vessels a safety alert about Hurricane Danny earlier that summer, but told investigators the intent there was as a general advisory about the start of the hurricane season and need to review heavy weather procedures.  During Erika, the Report says a TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico employee in Jacksonville did send an email to some shoreside personnel and three captains with details on the Coast Guard preparations for a port closure. A captain later replied some of the steps he was taking because of the storm, and the next day the Designated Person asked the captain for a detailed list of preparedness/avoidance plans and daily updates. The Report says there was no such initial contact or follow up request made during El Faro’s final voyage, but the ship’s captain did send his avoidance strategy to shoreside staff.  Nobody in TOTE was specifically assigned to monitor ships while at sea.    Polish riding gang  Part of the SMS includes that all members of a riding gang are given a full tour of the vessel. El Faro had a Polish riding gang on board on her final voyage, working specifically on preparing the ship to convert to the Alaska trade.  The training logs associated with the riding gang were on El Faro, so not available for the investigation. A Polish worker who was on the ship in the weeks ahead of the final voyage did tell investigators that they immediately went to the captain’s office to fill out forms after boarding the ship, and they did get a tour. He did not remember any safety briefing, had not been taken to the lifeboats to see what to do in an emergency, had not put on a lifejacket while on board, and did not know what the ship’s emergency signals were. He further testified that the Polish riding gang didn’t participate in drills, and instead, kept working. Statements from wives of some of the Polish riding gang further reinforced that they did not go through safety training.  The wives did say the gang thought highly of the off-duty chief engineer who was assigned as their supervisor.  There were no orientation documents or safety signage provided in the Polish language, and there was substantial testimony that showed most of the workers who had cycled through spoke little or no English- although the Report notes it’s not clear about the fluency of the workers on the final voyage specifically. One of the workers would act as the unofficial interpreter, according to testimony.  “It is not clear whether the Polish riding gang understood the safety procedures,” the Report says.  Wives of some of the Polish riding gang members also gave more insight of the conditions on the ship.  “You can’t even imagine this old rust bucket I have to board,” one of the workers said, according to a transcript of an interview with his wife.    Looking ahead  The NTSB is expecting to release two more factual reports in the coming weeks- the Nautical Operations Group Factual Report and Naval Architecture Factual Report. WOKV will continue to work through the new information and add context from the ongoing investigations, as those documents are released.  NTSB INVESTIGATION: Factual reports examine aspects of ship operations and sinking The NTSB has already issued ten safety recommendations as a result of their work so far, saying they didn’t want to wait until completion because of the start of hurricane season. The recommendations encourage action on a few ket areas in order to improve the safety of mariners at sea. The full NTSB report is expected out later this year.
  • While their larger investigation of the El Faro sinking is still ongoing, the NTSB has issued ten new recommendations as a result of their work so far, to encourage immediate action on mariner safety “We are getting these recommendations out as the hurricane season begins so that the work on these safety improvements can start immediately,” says a statement from NTSB Acting Chairman Robert L Sumwalt.  The goal of the recommendations is to improve the accuracy of hurricane and tropical cyclone forecasts and to make them more accessible at sea. FULL COVERAGE:The sinking of El Faro Two of the recommendations have been issued to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, seven to the National Weather Service, and one to the US Coast Guard, with the NTSB urging the organizations to adopt them.  The NTSB acknowledges that, generally, safety recommendations are issued at the end of an investigation, but can be put out at any time. NTSB INVESTIGATION: Details from the NTSB’s Investigative Reports The Board has been investigating the sinking of El Faro since late 2015, which included participating in three Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation public hearing sessions as well as producing the longest transcript of a Voyage Data Recorder- or “black box”- that the NTSB has ever completed.  33 people died when the cargo ship out of Jacksonville sank in Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015. During his final shoreside communication, El Faro’s Captain reported the ship had lost propulsion and taken on water, resulting in a fifteen degree list. AUDIO: El Faro’s Captain reports “marine emergency” The VDR transcript- which included conversations from the bridge- showed the engineers were struggling to get things running again and containers were coming loose. FULL DETAILS: El Faro’s VDR captures final moments ahead of El Faro’s sinking The investigation so far has raised questions about how the cargo was secured and the condition of the ship in the area that water came on board. We’ve also learned the vessel had some outdated weather information in the hours ahead of the sinking, didn’t receive all communications, and that the forecasting errors on Hurricane Joaquin itself were more significant than normal.   The end of the VDR did capture the Captain calling to abandon ship, but none of the crew were ever recovered.  GALLERY: Tributes to the El Faro crew The NTSB expects to complete their investigation of the sinking later this year, which will include a finding of probable cause and contributing factors to the sinking. The Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation will also issue its own separate report.  Recommendations to NOAA The NTSB Safety Recommendation Report discusses the challenges in forecasting Hurricane Joaquin, with the National Hurricane Center reporting it as one of the most challenging storms for forecast track. Part of the problem, according to testimony during the MBI, was the shear environment- which was moderate. One of the recommendations is to develop and implement a plan to improve forecasting track and intensity in such a moderate-shear environment. The NTSB report says there was a NOAA program which included this goal, but they have recently moved away from this type of research. A second recommendation is to develop and implement technology to help National Weather Service forecasters quickly sort through data and forecast models to try to detect clusters of information that could help determine the best guidance. “NHC staff told the NTSB that this capability could have made a difference in the forecasting for Joaquin,” the NTSB report says. Recommendations to NWS One of the weather systems mariners use to get weather information is called Inmarsat-C SafetyNET (SAT-C), which is a text broadcast of NHC weather products that goes to the ship’s bridge. During a tropical cyclone, an advisory is issued through this system four times a day. An Intermediate Public Advisory is also issued every three hours by the NHC once watches and warnings for tropical storms or hurricanes are issued, but these intermediate advisories are not available through SAT-C. The first NTSB recommendation in this area involves developing and implementing a plan to make the intermediate advisories available through this system. The report says there was an Intermediate Advisory issued on Joaquin just a few minutes after the crew communicated with the Captain about their course in the hours ahead of the sinking, but El Faro did not get that advisory through that system, because it’s not required. “The advisory would have identified to the crew that El Faro’s current course was taking them almost directly toward the center of the southwest-moving hurricane,” the report says. Another recommendation would require the Intermediate Advisory be issued even if the tropical storm or hurricane is not a threat to land- which is the focus under the current advisory construct. This would give new information to mariners in the open water. Some of the recommendations deal with trying to prevent any potential for confusion dealing with the timing of the advisory. The NTSB is calling on the NWS to take steps to make more clear when subsequent advisories will be issued. Additionally, the NTSB recommends defining a “significant change” in a storm for both track and intensity, to better streamline when new “Special Advisory packages” will be issued for a storm. Those Special Advisories are issued now if there is a watch or warning issued between regular advisories, or if there is an “unexpected significant change” in the storm- which is currently defined by informal protocol. “Despite Joaquin’s repeated tendency during the days before El Faro sank to move south of its short-term forecast track, as well as two periods of stronger-than-expected short-term intensification, the only Special Advisory package for Joaquin was issued at 1200 EDT on October 3, 2015. That was 2 days after the sinking, when the NHC adjusted Joaquin’s initial and forecast intensity,” the NTSB report says. Another system a ship can use to get weather information is called FTPmail. Users can send a request and receive large data packets of real-time NWS text and graphics through standard email, but the system is not automated. One recommendation is to allow users to scheduling recurring deliveries, and another is to include more graphics products. The final recommendation for NWS is to develop a plan for soliciting feedback from mariners about the accuracy, timeliness, and usability of the weather products. The NTSB says there hasn’t been any such solicitation since 2007. Recommendation to the Coast Guard While the NTSB sees the Coast Guard as a partner in the implementation of some of the above recommendations, the only direct recommendation to USCG deals with their broadcast of NWS data. This broadcast goes out through various outlets. The NTSB wants to see the Coast Guard and NWS more closely collaborating on what information is being distributed through this means, to include Intermediate Advisories, Tropical Cyclone Forecasts, and more. The NTSB acknowledged this may not be easy to achieve, because of the constraints around the allocation of the broadcast window, but says it could be an important way for mariners to get timely and comprehensive information.
  • The transcript for the Voyage Date Recorder that was aboard El Faro was already the longest the NTSB had ever assembled, and now it had grown even more. The NTSB says, since the initial release of the VDR- or black box- transcript in December 2016, investigators continued to gather facts and analyze information. They then held additional listening sessions, and that has now resulted in the release of four additional transcript sections. VOYAGE DATA RECORDER: Details from the transcript of the crew’s final hours The new releases are brief, totaling less than three of the more than five hundred pages of the transcript overall. Despite that, they appear to speak directly to some of the areas investigators have been probing. El Faro sank in Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015, killing all 33 people on board. The ship was heavily loaded while transiting from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. It had taken on water, had a substantial list, and lost propulsion ahead of the Captain’s final shoreside communication and, ultimately, the sinking. FULL COVERAGE: The sinking of El Faro The first insertion is a conversation between the Third Mate and Third Helmsman on El Faro at 11:43AM on September 30th, the day before El Faro sank. Leading up to this new addition the two spoke about a few things, including that a dentist had prescribed the Third Mate a narcotic- although it’s unclear whether that was a current prescription or in the past. They spoke about drug testing and the potential to look “pretty happy”. The conversation then turned to Hurricane Joaquin, with some shock at the wind gusts the storm was producing, but belief they wouldn’t feel those peak conditions. Then comes the new addition, where the Third Mate comments that the Port Engineer has one ship and questions what that position pays. The Third Mate further says he has no idea if the Port Engineer was a Chief Engineer prior or was even licensed. “he really doesn’t seem to do anything or know anything.” says the Third Mate, according to the transcript. The Third Helmsman then questions how many people “look important”, but don’t know what to do, and the Third Mate responded with a comment about salaries that wasn’t completely transcribed. This exchange could speak to a few areas that investigators have been examining, including the competency, responsibility, and workload of some shoreside employees. There has also been an examination of crew morale, and questioning the abilities and salaries of someone in the corporate structure could speak to that. GALLERY: Tributes to the El Faro crew About 15 minutes later in the day- right around noon- is another new insertion, this time in a conversation between the Second Mate and the Second Helmsman. This portion directly preceeded the Second Mate saying El Faro needed to get where they were going “in one piece”. “who cares what time we get there as long as we get there.” The transcript says. The newly transcribed portion shows the two apparently looking at one of the readouts that mapped the ship and time. They appear to be tracking the ship’s location at different times over the coming hours. There are various things talked about over the next two hours or so, but the third new transcript insertion comes around 1:40PM when concern was clearly building. “think this just got worse.” the Second Mate said, according to the transcript. The conversation immediately before and after those comments was not transcribed, so it’s unclear what specifically the Second Mate was speaking about, but the context indicates she is referring to Hurricane Joaquin or the ship’s track compared to the storm.  In the lead up to the new insertion, the Second Mate had been talking to the Captain about the storm and the potential to take an alternate route on the return journey. After the new portion, the Second Mate makes comments about the weather getting better when the ship moves past the storm. The errors in the storm forecasting and problems with one of the ship’s on board weather systems have been frequently scrutinized throughout the investigation. There have additionally been questions about whether the Captain was truly empowered to change the ship’s route as he saw fit, or if he needed approval from officials on shore. GALLERY: El Faro’s wreckage The final insertion was the morning of the sinking, around 5:45AM. “we got cars loose. yeah.” The Captain said, according to the transcript. The Captain made this remark soon after telling the Chief Mate to head down to check out flooding in a hold, which they believed to be the result of a blown scuttle. The transcript previously showed that cars had at least been bobbing in the water, and that there were some other cargo problems including some broken cords to refrigerated containers, leaning containers, and likely containers in the water. Investigators have already raised significant questions about the lashing protocols, the calculations that were and were not being used in stacking, and the training cargo loading crews were given specific to the cargo protocols on each ship. NTSB INVESTIGATION: Factual reports examine aspects of ship operations and sinking The NTSB has already released several “Factual Reports” as part of their ongoing investigation. More are expected to be issued in the coming days and weeks, ahead of the release of their full report later this year. The NTSB did issue ten recommendations dealing with mariner safety in June, despite the fact that their investigation was still ongoing. In presenting the recommendations, the NTSB noted they could have an impact specifically in the hurricane season, so they did not want to wait. EDITOR’S NOTE: The quotes in this story come directly from the VDR transcript. We have inserted the quotes as they appear in the transcript, including in regard to capitalization.
  • A Catholic priest is temporarily stepping away from his public duties after writing in an op-ed about his membership in the Ku Klux Klan four decades ago. >> Read more trending news The Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, said Rev. William Aitcheson penned the article to show the transformation possible in life. Aitcheson volunteered to take a leave on the day the article was published, officials said. It was not immediately clear how long he would be on leave. “My actions were despicable,” Aitcheson wrote in the article, published Monday in The Arlington Catholic Herald. “When I think back on burning crosses, a threatening letter and so on, I feel as though I am speaking of somebody else.” Aitcheson’s article was written in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester demonstrating against a rally organized by white supremacists was killed by a known Nazi sympathizer. >> Related: Trump again blames ‘both sides’ for violence in Charlottesville “The images from Charlottesville brought back memories of a bleak period in my life that I would have preferred to forget,” Aitcheson wrote. “The reality is, we cannot forget, we should not forget. Our actions have consequences and while I firmly believe God forgave me — as he forgives anyone who repents and asks for forgiveness — forgetting what I did would be a mistake.” Aitcheson, 62, was ordained in Nevada after attending seminary at the North American College in Rome. He spent some years with the Diocese of Reno before becoming a permanent priest in 1998 with the Diocese of Arlington. He currently serves as the parochial vicar at St. Leo the Great in Fairfax City. He wrote in his opinion piece that his own transformation, from white supremacist to priest, “is a reminder of the radical transformation possible through Jesus Christ in his mercy.” “Racists have polluted minds, twisted by an ideology that reinforces the false belief that they are superior to others,” Aitcheson wrote. “We must condemn, at every opportunity, the hatred and vile beliefs of the KKK and other white supremacist organizations. What they believe directly contradicts what we believe as Americans and what we, as Catholics, hold dear.” Officials with the Diocese of Arlington said that they have not gotten any complaints of Aitcheson being racist or bigoted in his time with the diocese. In a statement, Arlington Diocese Bishop Michael Burbidge called Aitcheson’s history with the KKK “sad and deeply troubling.” “I pray that in our current political and social climate his message will reach those who support hate and division and inspire them to a conversion of heart,” Burbidge said.

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