When El Faro, a commercial shipping vessel, left Jacksonville heading to San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 30, 2015, no one knew it would never return.
The El Faro drove into the path of Hurricane Joaquin and sank in the Bermuda Triangle taking with it 33 crew members. There were no survivors.
When the storm swerved, the ship had no recourse and could not escape its 130 mile per hour winds. El Faro lost propulsion and power leaving it at the mercy of Mother Nature, like a cork in the sea.
Its final resting place is 15,000 feet at the bottom the ocean.
The wife of one of the crew members has turned her grief into action.
Rochelle Hamm wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other vessel and crew.
Ms. Hamm is calling for the stricter regulation of maritime vessels.
She calls it the Hamm ALERT, named for her husband, Frank, who was lost at sea.
In her Change.org petition, she asks Congress to give oversight to an impartial third party so one captain’s bad decision can be overridden.
El Faro left port as storm Hurricane Joaquin was building to a Category 3 storm.
Ms. Hamm says the ship should never have left port and a third party could have determined the potential for harm at sea, not unlike an air traffic controller oversees safety in our nation’s skies.
Her petition requires all commercial vessels to have Coast Guard-approved enclosed lifeboats and survival supplies. On El Faro, the lifeboats were antiquated, open and subject to the winds and waves.
The 500-page transcript released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), tells the story of the ship’s final hours. The crew members openly questioned the captain’s decision to try and outrun the storm.
Frank Hamm’s last words. “I’m goin’ down!” he cries as his feet slip underneath him.
“I’m a goner.”
Mrs. Hamm’s mission has taken her to visit Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. So far she has more than 11,000 signatures supporting the Hamm ALERT which will be included in recommendations by the NTSB and U.S. Coast Guard.
Recently, her husband’s helmet washed ashore on a Florida beach.
Ms. Hamm carries the green helmet that says “Frank,” that compels her to complete this mission, turning her pain into a purpose with power.