Coast Guard: Missing ship sank, 1 body found, search ongoing

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Life Ring Found in Missing Ship Search

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- The Coast Guard said Monday that a U.S. cargo ship carrying 33 people that has been missing since it encountered high winds and heavy seas from Hurricane Joaquin sank and one body was found, but planes and ships will continue searching for the missing crew.

Capt. Mark Fedor said one large debris field was spotted near the last known location of the 790-foot container ship El Faro near the Bahamas. The body, which Fedor said was "unidentifiable," was discovered in a survival suit, but no other human remains or survivors were immediately located.

"We are still looking for survivors or any signs of life," Fedor said at a news conference near Miami. "We're not looking for the vessel any longer."

Three Coast Guard cutters, two C-130 aircraft, helicopters, commercial tugboats and a U.S. Navy plane were searching across a wide expanse of Atlantic Ocean near Crooked Island in the Bahamas. Fedor said a heavily damaged lifeboat from the El Faro was discovered, but it had no people or signs of life. The ship had two lifeboats capable of holding 43 people each.

See photos of the search for the missing ship:

36 PHOTOS
El Faro cargo ship sinks (Bahamas Missing Ship)
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Coast Guard: Missing ship sank, 1 body found, search ongoing
In this photograph released by the National Transportation Safety Board, the damaged stern of the sunken freighter El Faro is seen on the seafloor, 15,000-feet deep near the Bahamas. The freighter sunk on Oct. 1, 2015, after losing engine power and getting caught in a Category 4 hurricane. All 33 crew members aboard were lost at sea. Federal investigators are considering launching another search of the wreckage of a freighter. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

In this photograph released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, the detached navigation bridge of the sunken freighter El Faro is seen on the seafloor, 15,000-feet deep near the Bahamas. The freighter sunk on Oct. 1, 2015, after losing engine power and getting caught in a Category 4 hurricane. All 33 crew members aboard were lost at sea. Federal investigators are considering launching another search of the wreckage of a freighter. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)

In this photograph released by the National Transportation Safety Board on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, the top of the detached navigation bridge of the sunken freighter El Faro is seen on the seafloor, 15,000-feet deep near the Bahamas. The freighter sunk on Oct. 1, 2015, after losing engine power and getting caught in a Category 4 hurricane. All 33 crew members aboard were lost at sea. Federal investigators are considering launching another search of the wreckage of a freighter. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)
In this photograph released by the National Transportation Safety Board, the damaged stern of the sunken freighter El Faro is seen on the seafloor, 15,000-feet deep near the Bahamas. The freighter sunk on Oct. 1, 2015, after losing engine power and getting caught in a Category 4 hurricane. All 33 crew members aboard were lost at sea. Federal investigators are considering launching another search of the wreckage of a freighter. (National Transportation Safety Board via AP)
El Faro, provided by TOTE Maritime Services
Deborah Dyer, right, is hugged by Judy Marzolf prior at vigil of hope held at Maine Maritime Academy for the missing crew members of the U.S. container ship El Faro, Tuesday evening, Oct. 6, 2015, in Castine, Maine. Dyer's nephew, Dylan Meklin, of Rockland, Maine, is one of the four Maine Maritime Academy graduate who are missing after the El Faro vanished near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Carla Newkirk, left, hugs Terri Davis during a candlelight vigil for the sunken cargo ship El Faro, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. U.S. safety investigators say the U.S. Navy soon will set out to find El Faro, sunk in Hurricane Joaquin. Newkirk is the daughter of missing crew member Larry Davis while Terri is Davis' wife. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP) 
Evangelist Barbara Ward, center, speaks during a candlelight vigil for the sunken cargo ship El Faro, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. U.S. safety investigators say the U.S. Navy soon will set out to find El Faro, sunk in Hurricane Joaquin. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
Maine Maritime Academy students bow their heads during a vigil of hope for the missing crew members of the U.S. container ship El Faro, Tuesday evening, Oct. 6, 2015, in Castine, Maine. The Coast Guard has concluded the vessel sank near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. Four graduates of Maine Maritime Academy are missing. They are Capt. Michael Davidson of Windham, Maine, Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, Maine, Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland, Maine, and Dylan Meklin, also of Rockland. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
ROCKLAND, ME - OCTOBER 5: John Gerry, a cousin of Dylan Meklin, is overcome with emotion after a candlelight vigil in honor of Meklin at the Fishermen's Memorial in Rockland Harbor Monday, October 5, 2015. Meklin, along with three other Mainers and 29 other souls, were aboard El Faro, a cargo ship which is believe to have sunk in the path of Hurricane Joaquin. 'I played football with him and everything,' said Gerry. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
ROCKLAND, ME - OCTOBER 5: A candlelight vigil was held at the Fishermen's Memorial in Rockland Harbor for Dylan Meklin, 23, of Rockland, and Danielle Randolph, 34, also of Rockland, Monday, October 5, 2015. The pair are among four Mainers and 29 other souls who were aboard El Faro, a cargo ship which is believe to have sunk in the path of Hurricane Joaquin. (Photo by Gabe Souza/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Maine Maritime Academy students attend a vigil of hope for the missing crew members of the U.S. container ship El Faro, Tuesday evening, Oct. 6, 2015, in Castine, Maine. The Coast Guard has concluded the vessel sank near the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. Four graduates of Maine Maritime Academy are missing. They are Capt. Michael Davidson of Windham, Maine, Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, Maine, Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland, Maine and Dylan Meklin, also of Rockland. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
CASTINE, ME - OCTOBER 6: Travis Emerson, right, comforts Alexi Galley after a vigil for the crew members of the cargo ship El Faro, which is believed to have sunk off the Bahamas during Hurricane Joaquin. Four of the ship's crew, Capt. Michael Davidson of Windham, Michael Holland of Wilton, Danielle Randolph of Rockland and Dylan Meklin, both of Rockland, are all graduates of Maine Maritime Academy. (Photo by Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 photo made from video and released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard crew member is moved back to the helicopter after investigating a life boat, that was found from the missing ship El Faro. On Monday, four days after the ship vanished, the Coast Guard concluded it sank near the Bahamas in about 15,000 feet of water. One unidentified body in a survival suit was spotted, and the search went on for any trace of the other crew members. The search continued Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, photo, made from video and released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard Air Station Miami MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew investigates a life boat that was found from the missing ship El Faro. On Monday, four days after the ship vanished, the Coast Guard concluded it sank near the Bahamas in about 15,000 feet of water. The search continued Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 photo made from video and released by the U.S. Coast Guard, a Coast Guard crew member investigates a life boat, that was found from the missing ship El Faro. On Monday, four days after the ship vanished, the Coast Guard concluded it sank near the Bahamas in about 15,000 feet of water. One unidentified body in a survival suit was spotted, and the search went on for any trace of the other crew members. The search continued Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
U.S.C.G. Cpt. Mark Fedor, right, and Lt. Cmd. Gabe Somma brief the media on the search for survivors of the cargo ship El Faro that sank during Hurricane Joaquin at the Coast Guard Station at the Opa Locka Airport on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. (Walter Michot/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images)
OPA LOCKA, FL - OCTOBER 05: U.S. Coast Guard Captain Mark Fedor (L) and Lt. Commander Gabe Somma walk away after speaking to the media, at U.S. Coast Guard Station Miami, about the sinking of the 790-foot container ship El Faro on October 5, 2015 in Opa Locka, Florida. The Coast Guard has concluded that the ship most likely sank after encountering Hurricane Joaquin last Thursday, but Coast Guard cutters and aircraft and a U.S. Navy plane continued searching for the 33 missing crew members. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Capt. Jeffrey Dixon, Commanding officer U.S. Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville, left, walks with Phil Greene, second from left, President & CEO TOTE Services, operator of El Faro, the missing ship, walk into a meeting with families of the crew Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla. Family and friends of the crew gathered at the local Seafarers union hall to hear updates from officials with the Coast Guard and TOTE, Inc., the company that owns and operates the ship. (Bob Mack/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
Phil Greene, President of TOTE Services & CEO, left, and Tim Nolan, President of TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico, right, listen as Anthony Chiarello, President & CEO, TOTE, Inc. speaks about about the missing cargo ship El Faro outside the Seafarer's International Union hall in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Authorities lost contact with the El Faro early Thursday as the ship sailed through the Bahamas at the height of the Hurricane Joaquin storm as it sailed from its homeport in Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Bruce Lipsky/The Florida Times-Union via AP) 
Families have gathered at the Seafarers Union Hall Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla., waiting for news on the crew of 33 aboard the missing cargo ship El Faro. The ship has not been heard from since it lost power and was taking on water in seas churned up by Hurricane Joaquin. (Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union via AP)
Rear Adm. Scott Buschman, commander of the Coast Guard 7th District, receives an update brief for the missing cargo ship El Faro at the Coast Guard 7th District in Miami, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. The ship was heading from Jacksonville, Fla, to San Juan, Puerto Rico when it was battered by waves. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
Map locates Crooked Island, in the Bahamas, where a missing cargo ship was last seen; 1c x 2 inches; 46.5 mm x 50 mm;
#BreakingNews @USCGSoutheast C-130 just lands, reports 225 SqMi debris field of styrofoam, wood, cargo, other items. http://t.co/4us2EP4L4C
#BreakingNews: @USCGSoutheast MH-60 refueling at sea as search crews cover 70K+ sqNM in the search for 790' #ElFaro http://t.co/6ICMmxraO2
#BreakingNews @USCGSoutheast Video Release: Recovery of #ElFaro life ring. http://t.co/X0RfPsheTM
#BreakingNews: @USCGSoutheast search for #ElFaro has covered more than 30K sqNM. http://t.co/hBlBWAl0GK http://t.co/9H4PVf4wyM
#BreakingNews @USCGSoutheast aircrew searching IVO #hurricane #Joaquin for container ship w/ crew of 33. http://t.co/cpEfzRi5G1
Family, union and company officials wait outside the Seafarer's International Union hall, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015, in Jacksonville, Fla., as an intensive search resumed Sunday in the southeastern Bahamas for a U.S. cargo ship with 33 people on board. The ship has not been heard from since it lost power and was taking on water as it was battered in fierce seas churned up by Hurricane Joaquin. (AP Photo/Jason Dearen)
Mary Shevory, talks about her daughter Maryette Wright's love of the sea in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Wright was a crew member of the missing cargo ship El Faro. Authorities lost contact with the El Faro early Thursday as the ship sailed through the Bahamas at the height of the Hurricane Joaquin storm as it sailed from its homeport in Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Bruce Lipsky/The Florida Times-Union via AP) 
As the sun begins to set as television crews set up their lights while waiting for an update on the crew members aboard the missing cargo ship El Faro outside the Seafarer's International Union hall in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. Authorities lost contact with the El Faro early Thursday as the ship sailed through the Bahamas at the height of the Hurricane Joaquin storm as it sailed from its homeport in Jacksonville, Fla., to San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Bruce Lipsky/The Florida Times-Union via AP)
This satellite image taken Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 at 8:45 a.m. EDT, and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows Hurricane Joaquin of the Bahamas. The Category 4 storm ripped off roofs, uprooted trees and unleashed heavy flooding as it hurled torrents of rain across the eastern and central Bahamas on Friday, and the U.S. Coast Guard said it was searching for a cargo ship with 33 people aboard that went missing during the storm. (NOAA via AP)
Petty Officer 1st Class Antonio Lockhart, watchstander at Coast Guard 7th District Command Center, updates search information regarding the missing cargo ship El Faro at the Coast Guard 7th District Command Center in Miami, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. The ship was heading from Jacksonville, Fla, to San Juan, Puerto Rico when it was battered by waves. (Petty Officer 2nd Class Jon-Paul/U.S. Coast Guard via AP)
Wind and rain from Hurricane Joaquin affect Nassau, Bahamas, Friday, Oct. 2, 2015. Hurricane Joaquin dumped torrential rains across the eastern and central Bahamas on Friday as a Category 4 storm. (AP Photo/Tim Aylen)
The sky is overcast on south Eleuthera island, Bahamas, early Friday, Oct. 2, 2015 as Hurricane Joaquin dumps torrential rains across the eastern and central Bahamas as a Category 4 storm. Streets were largely deserted as people remained hunkered down on the island of Eleuthera, which was bracing for heavy winds later Friday. (AP Photo/Ben Fox)
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Fedor said it appears the vessel lost power, making it extremely vulnerable to the Category 4 hurricane's 140-mph winds and 50-foot waves. It had 391 shipping containers aboard, weight that could make the ship top-heavy and prone to capsizing, he added.

"These are trained mariners. They know how to abandon ship. They know how to survive in the water," Fedor said of the crew. "Those are challenging conditions to survive."

The El Faro departed from Jacksonville, Florida, on Sept. 29, when Joaquin was still a tropical storm. The ship had 28 crew members from the United States and five from Poland, and it was heading to Puerto Rico on a regular cargo supply run when it ran into trouble. Contact was lost early Thursday.

The crew reported that the ship had lost power, had taken on water and was listing 15 degrees but that the situation was "manageable," in their last communication Thursday morning, according to ship owner TOTE Maritime Puerto Rico. They have not been heard from since.

Fedor said the National Transportation Safety Board and the Coast Guard would launch an investigation into why the ship ventured toward the hurricane and how it sank.

Family members of the crew said Sunday that they were trying to remain optimistic as they awaited word of any developments at the Seafarer's International Union hall in Jacksonville. Some sobbed and hugged each other.

"This is torture," said Mary Shevory, mother of crew member Mariette Wright.

Shevory, who had come to the union hall from her home in Massachusetts, said her 51-year-old daughter was devoted to her job working on the ship.

"I'm just praying to God they find the ship and bring my daughter and everyone on it home," she said.

Laurie Bobillot's daughter, Danielle Randolph, is a second mate on the El Faro. Bobillot said she was trying not to lose hope.

"We've got to stay positive," said Bobillot, of Rockland, Maine. "These kids are trained. Every week they have abandon-ship drills."

The first sign of the ship, an orange life ring, was found Saturday about 120 miles (193 kilometers) northeast of Crooked Island. That was followed by floating debris and the oil sheen Sunday.

The company has defended its decision to authorize the voyage. Crew members were "equipped to handle situations such as changing weather," it said in a statement.

Phil Greene, president and CEO of TOTE Services, Inc., said the captain had been observing the weather patterns and discussed the weather as the El Faro passed its sister ship going in the opposite direction.

Greene said the El Faro has been in service for many years and was built to work in the rough seas off Alaska. "She is a sturdy, rugged vessel that was well maintained and that the crew members were proud of," he said.

RELATED: See photos of Hurricane Joaquin's path

17 PHOTOS
Hurricane Joaquin
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Coast Guard: Missing ship sank, 1 body found, search ongoing

NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly captured this photo on Oct. 2, 2015, from the International Space Station and wrote on Twitter, "Early morning shot of Hurricane #‎Joaquin‬ from @space_station before reaching ‪#‎Bahamas‬. Hope all is safe. #‎YearInSpace‬." (Photo via NASA)

IN SPACE - OCTOBER 1: In this handout from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Hurricane Joaquin is seen churning in the Atlantic on October 1, 2015. Joaquin was upgraded to a category three hurricane early on October 1. The exact track has yet to be determined, but there is a possibity of landfall in the U.S. anywhere from North Carolina to the Northeast. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
Major Hurricane Joaquin as seen by GOES East at 1900Z on October 1, 2015. (Photo via NOAA)
Craig Fugate, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), talks about the status of Hurricane Joaquin as it moves through the eastern Bahamas, at the National Hurricane Center, Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, in Miami. Forecasters were still gathering data to determine how it might affect the U.S. East Coast. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Map shows Hurricane Joaquinââ¬â¢s projected path; 2c x 5 1/2 inches; 96.3 mm x 139 mm;
Joaquin's winds have increased to hurricane strength making the storm the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. This image was taken by GOES East at 1315Z on September 30, 2015. (Photo via NOAA)
This NOAA satellite image taken Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015 at 12:45 AM EDT shows Tropical Storm Joaquin moving into the Bahama Islands with maximum sustained winds of seventy miles per hour. This system is expected to quickly become a hurricane as it progresses further towards the eastern seaboard of the United States. A large precipitation shield is also covering New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Ohio River Valley. This activity is associated with a frontal boundary that extends from Newfoundland and Labrador into the Southern Plains. (Weather Underground via AP)
This image shows Tropical Storm Joaquin in the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 30, 2015. (Photo via NOAA)
This image shows Tropical Storm Joaquin in the Atlantic Ocean north of Hispaniola, taken by GOES East at 1415Z on September 29, 2015. (Photo via NOAA)
Tropical Storm Joaquin on Sept. 29, 2015. (Photo via NOAA)
Tropical Storm #Joaquin =Max sustained winds 70 mph. Should become hurricane. Track still uncertain beyond Friday. http://t.co/MxTpVLrHXG
BREAKING: #Hurricane warning issued for central Bahamas. Hurricane watch issued including Nassau, Freeport. #Joaquin http://t.co/8pAQ9iQvxP
#Joaquin is still a #tropicalstorm for now. You can track the latest here --> http://t.co/CWPOQvTLcT @CNN http://t.co/le9bxXlyh1
Tropical Storm #Joaquin likely to become a hurricane today. Stays near Bahamas thru Friday, then heads north #nlwx http://t.co/VluYOAv88v
Tropical Storm Joaquin continues to strengthen. Forecast to become a hurricane today @foxandfriends @FoxFriendsFirst http://t.co/8qNEuurFDt
The track and intensity continue to be fine tuned, but details are still unclear on Joaquin's impacts. #PAWX #FOX43 http://t.co/YuofedVmzu
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