The Chatham Marconi Maritime Center welcomes Capt. Morgan Turrell, Acting Director, National Transportation Safety Board Office of Marine Safety, to its Ed Fouhy Distinguished Speaker Series for a virtual presentation.
At the turn of the 20th century, wireless telegraphy ended the isolation of mariners at sea. Radio communication allowed mariners to receive warnings of bad weather and enabled distressed ships to call for help. This year, Chatham Marconi Maritime Center features “Radio to the Rescue”, a series of fascinating programs and exhibits highlighting the valuable lessons learned from sea disasters, lessons that have long been applied to improve crew safety and save countless lives.
El Faro was a 40-year old United States-flagged cargo ship crewed by U.S. merchant mariners. On September 29, 2015 El Faro departed Jacksonville, Florida, bound for Puerto Rico on her regular supply run with a cargo of 391 shipping containers, 294 trailers and cars, and a crew of 33 people. Two days later, she encountered Category 3 Hurricane Joaquin off the Bahamas, with swells of 20 to 30 feet and winds over 92 mph. Radio contact with the vessel was lost shortly after 7:30 a.m. on October 1. Search and rescue operations were unable to locate the ship or any survivors. On October 5, the vessel was declared lost. On October 7, the U.S. Coast Guard ceased search operations and the National Transportation Safety Board’s work began.
How did a 790-ft. vessel sink with the loss of its entire crew in this era of satellite communication, regular inspections and required safety equipment? Our distinguished speaker, Capt. Morgan Turrell, will explain the process involved in answering that question including how the NTSB, U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies cooperate to investigate and prevent marine disasters. He will also describe the NTSB’s involvement in other recent major maritime incidents.
Capt. Turrell began working at the National Transportation Safety Board in September of 2003 and was named Acting Director, Office of Marine Safety in March 2020. Previously he served as Deputy Director, Chief of Investigations, and Senior Marine Accident Investigator. He is responsible for the investigations of and report development for Major Marine Casualties in the United States, or on U.S. vessels worldwide. He led the agency’s investigation of the El Faro sinking, including the retrieval of its voyage data recorder. Capt. Turrell previously worked for Princess Cruises where he was Vice President of Marine Investigations. After graduating from the United States Merchant Marine Academy in 1987, he served as a licensed deck officer aboard a variety of commercial vessels including tankers, container ships, roll-on/roll-off, and bulk carriers. Capt. Turrell was Project Manager at the University of Washington’s School of Oceanography and Master of its research vessel, earned an MBA from Pepperdine University, and is licensed by the United States Coast Guard as Master of ocean vessels of any gross tons.
Those interested in this topic may wish to view a video summation of the NTSB’s accident report on the El Faro tragedy appended below.
About the Ed Fouhy Distinguished Speaker Series
The Ed Fouhy Distinguished Speaker Series engages the community in exploring significant and thought-provoking topics. As a communications professional, Edward M. Fouhy brought the world and its stories to the American public. For Chatham Marconi’s Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum, Ed wrote and produced two videos explaining the importance of wireless radio communications to the rescue of RMS Titanic survivors and the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII. The Ed Fouhy Distinguished Speaker Series has been established as a limited schedule of special presentations designed to promote knowledge and understanding of history and world events, with a special focus on the science and development of communications technology and its profound effect on our lives.
[ Photo credits - Header photo: Cargo Vessel El Faro. Photo courtesy Capt. William Hoey via NTSB. Second photo: Artist’s rendering of El Faro at final rest on the ocean floor. Courtesy NTSB.
Video credit: NTSB. ]