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Mass. Maritime Grads On Cargo Ship That Vanished During Hurricane Joaquin

BOSTON (CBS) - The Coast Guard says it believes a cargo ship that vanished during Hurricane Joaquin sank. Two graduates of Mass. Maritime Academy were on board.

The El Faro was sailing from Jacksonville, Florida to Puerto Rico when it went silent on Thursday near Crooked Island. Thirty three crew members were aboard the 790-foot ship when it lost power.

At that time, Joaquin was nearby, a Category 3 hurricane with winds of up to 120 miles an hour.

The Coast Guard has recovered one body and an empty lifeboat, but they are not giving up.

"We are still looking for survivors or any sign of life or any signs of that vessel," said Captain Mark Fedor of the Coast Guard. "The search for survivors continues."

One of the last transmissions from the massive cargo ship was when it lost power.

Mathias Griffin
Jeffrey A. Mathias and Keith Griffin (Photos courtesy Massachusetts Maritime Academy)

"The loss of power is catastrophic for a ship," said Captain Tom Bush of the Mass. Maritime Academy.

On board the container ship were two graduates of Mass. Maritime, Jeffrey Mathias, Class of 1996, and Keith Griffin, Class of 2005. Both men are engineers.

"This is certainly one of the more difficult days we are going to have on campus," said Admiral Fran McDonald, MMA President.

Maryalice Sharkey was Griffin's eighth grade math teacher. "Keith was never afraid of anything," Sharkey said. "He may not have trusted everyone, but he was not afraid. And he still is not afraid."

Griffin is a Winthrop High graduate. He is married, expecting twins, and by all accounts, is a fighter.

"In my heart, I believe that if we will see Keith, it's because he does think differently," Sharkey says. "And he will think differently."

Roger and Susan Willis know the Mathias family well. The prominent Kingston family runs Bog Hollow Farm where the 42-year-old marine engineer is raising three children with his wife.

"They do a lot of work for the community of Kingston and it's just without words," Susan Willis said.

It appears the ship sank east of the Bahamas, caught up in Hurricane Joaquin. The Coast Guard has found a debris field, and the body of one crewman who is still unidentified.

Maine Cargo Ship El Faro
El Faro. (WBZ-TV)

At Mass. Maritime, students train for all emergencies on the 570 foot Kennedy.

"The cadets are trained very thoroughly in emergency procedures, what do you do in circumstances of heavy weather, what you start to do when you have stability issues, how to survive in a marine environment," Captain Bush said.

The cadets WBZ talked to Monday were well aware of dangers at sea.

"That's why not everybody wants to do it," one cadet said.

"Before you come here you think about what you want to do in the future and prepare for it I guess," another cadet said.

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