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South Florida Community Holds Vigil For 'El Faro' Crew

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POMPANO BEACH (CBSMiami) -- Members of the South Florida community gathered for a vigil honoring the crew of a ship lost at sea as Hurricane Joaquin slammed parts of the Caribbean.

The "Vigil of Hope" was held at St. Martin Episcopal Church in Pompano Beach.

The man behind the service is Merchant Marine Captain Paul Kalapodas  with a connection to the ship's chief engineer.

Officials believe the ship may have sunk during Hurricane Joaquin.

"That's anybody's nightmare at sea -- being hit in a rough storm and a ship that is without power and at the mercy of the oceans and seas," said Kalapodas. "There is a slim chance and we are hopeful for the families of the crew.

He attended SUNY Maritime College in New York and was there at the same time as the 'El Faro's chief engineer Richard Pusatere.

Kalapodas said he is concerned about what led to the accident, why the ship was sailing into the path of a storm and the age of the ship and its condition.

"Like many seagoing mariners…it's always a concern for them is it seaworthy? Is it up to regulation," asked Kalapodas.

The ceremony comes less than a week after the Coast Guard suspended the search for 'El Faro' ship that had 33 members on board. The search lasted seven days from when crews were last in communication with the Coast Guard.

The 790-foot cargo ship was en-route to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida when Coast Guard crews were notified the ship was disabled in the path of the hurricane.


Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force, Air National Guard and tugboat crews searched more than 183,000 square nautical miles off the Bahamian coast in a joint effort to locate the 'El Faro' crew.

During the search, the Coast Guard found a body in a survival suit in the water, a heavily damaged life boat with markings consistent with those on board 'El Faro,' a partially submerged life raft, life rings, cargo containers, Styrofoam, packaged food and an oil sheen.

Meantime, the National Transportation Safety Board is trying to get to the bottom of various questions including those asked by Kalapodas and it will likely be a lengthy and exhaustive investigation. The U.S. Navy is also conducting a massive search to find 'El Faro'and its crew as well as the voyage data recorder which captured the final hours of conversation on the ship's bridge.

Click here for more stories on 'El Faro.'

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