The 790-foot vessel set sail from Jacksonville, Florida, on a voyage to San Juan, Puerto Rico, on 29 September 2015, and sank about 34 hours later, near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin.  All 33 crew members aboard the ship perished in the accident.

The NTSB launched an investigation as soon as the sinking was confirmed and with assistance from the US Navy and US Coast Guard, the wreckage and debris field was located on 31 October 2015, more than 15,000 feet under the surface of the sea.

Investigators focused on recovering a crucial piece of evidence from the wreckage, the voyage data recorder (VDR), which contained more than 26 hours of audio recorded from the El Faro’s navigation bridge. The VDR was located in April 2016, but was not recovered until August 2016. The 500-page VDR transcript was placed in the El Faro accident docket, where it is among more than 16,000 pages of factual reports, interview transcripts and related documents. 

In addition to determining the probable cause of the sinking and any factors that may have contributed to the accident, the NTSB is expected to vote on recommendations to address safety issues uncovered during the investigation.