Family of El Faro victim launches $100 million lawsuit

The El Faro El Faro vanished during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people aboard.
The El Faro El Faro vanished during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people aboard.AFP

MIAMI (AFP) - The family of a crew member of El Faro, a cargo ship that vanished during Hurricane Joaquin with 33 people aboard, filed a US$100 million (S$140 million) lawsuit Wednesday against the ship's US owner and its missing captain.

The suit, brought by the family of Lonnie Jordan, accuses the company and ship captain Michael Davidson of "negligence," lawyer Willie Gary told a press conference.

"This case is about the oldest sin known to man: greed," he told reporters in Jacksonville, Florida.

"You could've waited. The ship was not seaworthy and you all should've known that. But you had to deliver that cargo to get the green," he said.

The company, Tote Maritime, declined to discuss the lawsuit but spokesman Mike Hanson said it "remains fully focused on supporting the families and their loved ones."

El Faro, which went missing on Oct 1, was en route from Florida to Puerto Rico with a cargo of containers and automobiles when it was caught in the ferocious storm in the Bahamas.

The last contact with the ship was a satellite notification that it had lost propulsion and was listing.

A seven-day air-and-sea search only yielded a trail of debris and the remains of one person, in a survival suit, before the US Coast Guard suspended the effort last Wednesday.

The US National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.

Gary said the lawsuit was also meant to elicit change in the shipping industry and would hopefully provide information for relatives with questions.

"No amount (of money) is too much when you take a life and you are responsible," he said.