In a 27-page letter Action News Jax has obtained, Bill Bennett, the attorney for El Faro Capt. Michael Davidson’s widow, urges the commandant of the Coast Guard to make corrections to the Marine Board Report.
The letter is in response to the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigation report released in October. That report is separate from the National Transportation Safety Board report that was released Tuesday.
Capt. Michael Davidson's actions have been scrutinized more than anyone else’s and with good reason.
He was the master of El Faro and thus responsible for the ship and its crew.
But Bennett said there’s more to it.
“The El Faro was not lost because of one single event. She certainly was not lost because she transited near a hurricane. She was lost because of a confluence of several events, including water on deck entering a scuttle which was inadvertently left open,” Bennett wrote.
Bennett called parts of the Marine Board Report inaccurate.
He stated in the letter that the Marine Board Report "unfairly" omitted facts about the captain's professionalism, skills and safety culture, including testimony during public hearings that he was a "meticulous" captain who was "safety conscious.”
He also called into the question the Marine Board’s statement that the master “failed to carry out his responsibilities.”
The Marine Board Report said Capt. Davidson failed to download the 11 p.m. Bon Voyage System data package. But Bennett said there’s a reason for that.
“The evidence establishes, however, that the MBI’s analysis is flawed. Communications captured by the VDR establish the Third Mate provided Capt. Davidson with the most up to date weather data available, i.e., the 1100 SAT-C weather forecast. Downloading the 11:00 BVS weather package, which was based upon a forecast hours older than the 1100 SAT-C weather, was unnecessary,” Bennett wrote.
An open scuttle is one of the biggest reason El Faro flooded so quickly. The letter states it was “inadvertently left open after the chief mate and Davidson ordered the deck secured for heavy weather.”
According to Bennett, Davidson was experienced in sailing in heavy weather and had no reason to believe that the weather would contribute to the loss of El Faro.
“At that time, Capt. Davidson was unaware, and had no reason to know, of the El Faro’s wind heel vulnerabilities or that a scuttle was left open and the vessel was taking on water,” Bennett wrote.
Bennett reiterates that there’s no single primary cause for the unfortunate event and said that’s backed up by the 38 casual factors listed in the Marine Board Report.
At the conclusion of the letter, he urged the commandant to consider his comments and requested that the Marine Board Report be “substantially revised.”
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