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“Hamm Alert” – New safety system coming in wake of El Faro?

by | May 3, 2017 | Blog

In the wake of the tragic downing of cargo ship El Faro on October 1, 2015, the widow of a crew member now looks for new safety measures. The El Faro went down as it carried cargo from Jacksonville, Florida to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The catastrophic event took the lives of 33 aboard the ship, including Frank Hamm, the husband of Rochelle Hamm.

What she found out about the events that transpired those few days, encouraged her to lobby for improved safety measures to protect merchant mariners in the future. She wishes that protection would have been in place for her husband. 

On board the El Faro, the captain, Michael Davidson, piloted the El Faro into powerful Hurricane Joaquin relying on inaccurate weather reports about the storm’s path and strength. The transcripts indicate the crew members were concerned about the storm and their continued course. As the peril mounted, the crew tried to save the ship and themselves as things became increasingly desperate. 

Ultimately, the ship was lost in the storm – the wreckage discovered months later three miles down on the ocean floor. The “black box” was recovered nearly a year later in the wreckage which was located near the Bahamas. The ship’s voyage data recorder contained critical information about the moments leading up to the disaster.

What is clear from the transcripts is that several members of the crew questioned the captain’s plan to stay on course – instead of navigating away from the storm or returning home. 

Rochelle Hamm believes that if a warning system – a “Hamm Alert” – was in place, it would prevent ships from going to sea when the weather is precarious. The hope is that the shipping industry would receive more oversight and keep ships in port when dangerous weather threatens, thereby protecting the lives of merchant mariners. So far, Hamm has a petition with over 11,000 signatures. 

Hamm continues to advocate for a warning system and has lobbied local and state members of the legislature. It is unclear if the tragedy will lead to tougher safety regulations and warnings. For now, Rochelle Hamm holds on to the memory of her husband, Frank, and keeps his recovered green hard hat by her bedside table. 

Source: Claims Journal, April 13, 2017


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