El Faro may have suffered boiler explosion prior to capsize

Cargo ship El Faro could have suffered a boiler explosion before it sank on October 1st 2015, the US Marine Board of Investigation heard on Friday.

In the afternoon of the second day of the third and final hearing into the disaster, Lou O’Donnell, assistant chief surveyor for the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), expressed confidence in the skill of the El Faro crew before adding a new possible cause of the disaster – that the flooding of the El Faro engine rooms could have caused catastrophic damage to her boilers, resulting in a boiler explosion.

Previous analysis had focused on the sequence (1) flooding of one or more holds; (2) a “free surface” effect; (3) a severe list; (4) loss of lubricating oil pressure for the turbines; (5) loss of propulsion; (6) capsizing.

O’Donnell was asked whether it was possible for such an explosion to have caused the detachment of the El Faro’s bridge, given that the upper decks of the house were found about half a mile away from the rest of the vessel. O’Donnell said that it could be an explanation, though it would be hard to be certain.

In the morning former El Faro third mate Alejandro Berrios was asked about a series of logbook entries that showed that he had been working long hours on the ship. Barrios said that at the time he was not aware of federal rest requirements. He said El Faro captain Michael Davidson would offer to stand watches if any of the mates were feeling tired – even if they were meeting their required hours of rest.